Do you speak and write in sound bites?
Before you protest that sound bites are spin or propaganda more appropriate for trashy TV than a corporate board room, stop.
Instead, sound bites are a few pithy words that capture the essence of your message.
Crafted correctly, sound bites are memorable. That’s a huge benefit. People are bombarded with so much information that they often can’t cut through the clutter to hone in on the key point.
If people can remember what you say, they’re more likely to think about it and then act on it.
If you’re still dubious and think only spin doctors advocate sound bites, hold your tongue.
Back to early 2011. That’s when I took Media Coach Susan Harrow’s Signature Sound Bites™ telecourse. It not only increased my appreciation for sound bites, but also inspired me to use them more.
Then my experience with Dr. David Rock and his brain-based coaching program further reinforced the value of succinct yet specific and colorful communication.
When a client recently asked me for useful tips on how to write better leadership messages, I advised: “Think sound bites with substance.”
So how do you craft memorable sound bites? Here are my 10 tips for writing and speaking sound bites with substance for leaders:
1. Know your intent before you decide what you’re going to say or write.
2. Follow a simple structure—nouns and verbs in active voice without jargon. Get to the point with minimum words.
3. Use colorful, concrete words. For example, instead of saying “We want to take the business to the next level” say “We will put two cards in every responsible person’s wallet.”
4. Rely on one of the most potent phrases in the English language, “For example…”
5. Practice the power of three. Refer to three points, three big mistakes, three actions.
6. Call on all of your senses; however, remember that visual has the biggest impact on the brain.
7. Tell stories. A simple format is:
- Explain the situation.
- Describe the action you took.
- State the result.
- Close with an epiphany or key learning.
8. Use metaphors or analogies. (A helpful resource book is I Never Metaphor I Didn’t Like.)
9. Be emotional to touch people and be memorable. Get people to laugh, cheer, be surprised, shake their head. Just don’t put them to sleep.
10. Include a clear call to action. Be direct and explicit.
Many of these tips are also key ingredients of LEAN COMMUNICATIONS®, which advocates adding more value with less resources. It isn’t surprising that the poster child for LEAN COMMUNICATIONS® is Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer, who embodies the spirit of doing more with less and getting great results. Mark Twain was ahead of his time in many ways.
Keep in mind though that textbook sound bites are just one part of the communication equation. Effective communication is a conversation. You also need to ask questions and listen.
Yet, if you talk and speak in sound bites, you’re practicing brain-friendly communication. That in itself encourages better dialogue.
What are you doing to be brief, bold and memorable?