If you’re like me, you are drowning in e-newsletters and marketing emails, and if so, I’ll go out on a limb and guess that most of them end up getting deleted without ever being opened. Which means your Mail Folder window looks like mine – a bolded “Deleted Items” folder – Outlook’s way of saying, “Hey! You got unread mail here.”
The other day I received an email about email. Well that made me curious, so I clicked on the link to the article which turned out to be a blog post about email etiquette. As I read it, I realized that all the helpful tips could apply to public speaking. So, thanks Rick at Business Hacks, for giving me an Aha! Moment. The parts in italic are Rick’s advice and the rest is my attempt to fit a square peg in a perfectly matched square hole.
1. Get to the verb. For email: Don’t make people dig through a long message to reach the action items. For speaking: Don’t make your audience have to wait for the key message. Tell them up front and in a concise manner the purpose of your presentation.
2. Number your issues or questions. For email: By giving each question its own line and number, you make it virtually impossible for people to ignore your multiple requests. For speaking: By providing a road map of your key points and the order you will present them, you increase the chances that your audience will actually listen to you instead of doing their grocery lists.
3. Label informational e-mails accordingly. For email: If you are sending an e-mail that has no action required, put FYI in the subject line. For speaking: Good speakers make it clear when they are simply providing information or when something important (persuasive, cautionary, punchline, etc.) is coming up. Choose your words carefully and use your voice as a way to differentiate the two.
4. Be as concise as possible. For email: Long e-mails are inconsiderate of your recipient’s time and more likely to result in you not getting the prompt attention you want. For speaking: Ditto! Your seven key points and 14 supporting points are only important to you. No one in the 21st century has the attention span for you to get through it all. So do everyone a favor and be a ruthless editor. I’m reminded of a client who called me for help after a particularly negative experience in which he had created 72 slides for a 30-minute presentation and just as he was about to start, the most important audience member was called back to the office. This VIP went up to my client and said, “Sorry, I have to go. Give me the presentation in a nutshell.” My client froze. He could not summarize his presentation into two sentences. Don’t let this happen to you.
If I were giving out belts for public speaking, these four tips would earn you a green belt.