Friday, August 10, 2012

Friday Fundamentals: Crafting Quotes and Sound Bites

Welcome to Friday Fundamentals, where we talk about simple ways to improve the effectiveness of  your communication.

This week I'm participating once again in the Global Leadership Summit.  This two-day event, presented annually by the Willow Creek Association (WCA), is always a high point in my year.  Read more about it here:

We're listening to some great speakers talk about leadership strategies.  The ideas are complex and abstract.  They're wonderful.  I'm on a high!  But I'm also noticing how our presenters all take special care to crystallize their concepts from time to time.  They do so for a good reason. When you are giving people a great idea, it tends to slip away -- unless you make it memorable in a well-crafted quote, slogan, or summary sentence. 

This is especially important for ideas that are communicated via verbal delivery only.  If you have a very important message to say in front of a crowd, and you want the crowd to act on it, you'd better give them a sound bite as a take-away.

For written communications, summary statements help combat eye fatigue and increase comprehension.  They corral a string of ideas into a neat thought package that is easy to circle, highlight, or cut and paste.

In the English language, we have  a saying about transmitting ideas.  We talk about "getting your point across."  Across where?  Across the distance that exists between your consciousness and the awareness of your audience.  Thoughts tend to start losing power as soon as we put them into words and send them forth.  But when we punctuate our delivery with great summary statements, we provide handles that make it easier for people to grasp, and use, what we are saying.

Do you take the time to craft good, solid take-aways?   Are your quotes quotable?  Or are your sound bites more like sound crumbs?

Bill Hybels, founder and keynote speaker for the Global Leadership Summit, puts it this way:

"If anyone had tried to tell me thirty years ago that my effectiveness as a leader would often hinge on something as 'inconsequential' as word choice, I'd have rolled my eyes and written them off.  'As long as I can convey an idea in general terms that everyone can understand,' I would have said, 'I'll do just fine.'  The truth is, leaders rise and fall by the language they use.  Sometimes whole visions live or die on the basis of the words the leader chooses for articulating that vision.  The very best leaders I know... coin creeds and fashion slogans and create rallying cries, all because they understand that language matters."

Here are some examples of great sound bites from yesterday's Summit speakers.  Read them and ponder:  Am I giving  a great take-away that will crystallize a concept?  Will my message inspire people, motivate them, or make them think?  Or are my ideas going nowhere and taking my audience with them?

Sound Bites From The Summit

"Things that once seemed impossible, afterwards can seem inevitable.  Lead impossibility to inevitability." -- Condoleezza Rice

"The only mistakes you can learn from are the ones you survive." -- Jim Collins

"Organizations that fail to scale do so because senior leadership fails to communicate." -- Marc Keilburger

"The central moral issue of this generation is gender inequity." -- Sheryl Wudunn

"Don't resent, fear, or judge the next generation.  Instead, believe in them." -- Craig Groeschel

I hope these examples challenge you to take what's in your next message, boil it down to its essential points, then fashion those points into some firm, short, powerful  slogans.

When you sprinkle your delivery with summary statements:

  • You help your audience stay interested.  
  • You give clarity. 
  • You convey your own belief in the importance of what you're saying. 
  • You build your own personal brand.
  • You provide rationale for subsequent action.
Most importantly, you help your message become super-effective and super-memorable.

If you have trouble crafting good quotable quotes, it may be due to your own lack of inspiration.  I'd like to suggest that you pick up a good book by an inspiring author and assign yourself some homework: read it, and circle the powerful statements that move you the most.  I plan to start reading Jim Collin's latest book, Great By Choice.  Want to be in my book club?

What slogans and sound bites have you found most moving in your own life recently?  If you don't have any, you haven't been growing much, have you?  Good communicators need to constantly be absorbing good communication.  Put down the novel, turn off the TV, and find your next life guru.  (Hint: anyone I've quoted in this post would be a likely candidate.)  Then study the way they communicate.

To be inspiring, be inspired.  That's my take-away for you today!

I'm heading off to the final day of the Global Leadership Summit this morning... next up: Patrick Lencioni and William Ury!  I'm in messaging heaven!

Who are you listening to today?  Can they inspire you?  If not, why are you listening to them?

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