“If content is king, then communication is queen. They rule together, and they cannot be separated."
-- John C. Maxwell
Have you ever had someone ask you to summarize someone else's message, maybe a book, podcast, or speech, but though you thought you were paying attention, you can't remember a single thing to repeat?
In today's world, your audience receives thousands of messages from every direction and various sources every day. Each one is vying for their attention, just like you. So, how do you stand out and catch their attention? The Law of Content says that people will start to listen if you have something worth saying.
John Maxwell illustrates this law with a puzzle. He says that your message is like the pieces of a puzzle, and your job as the communicator is to provide your audience with that helpful picture on the front of the puzzle box that helps them put it all together into something meaningful. "If they can't put it together and enjoy the process, you haven't succeeded as a communicator. You want people to be able to follow your thinking and see the picture you're trying to create."
You can help your audience put the pieces together by following these steps:
Understand Your Audience
"When you don't know your audience or don't craft your content to fit them, you're in danger of losing them." What is your audience looking to learn or experience? What challenges will they face as they receive your message? What is the setting of your communication -- is it formal or casual? -- and does your tone and vocabulary reflect that?
Keep to your Strengths
You cannot give your audience something you don't have, so stick to your strengths. For example, John Maxwell might communicate on topics such as communication, leadership, attitude, significance, or success, but you will never find him giving a talk or writing a book on physics or chemistry. What do you do best? Where is your intuition strongest or your natural skill greatest? These are your strength zones, and these are the topics you will be most effective with and create the clearest pictures for.
Develop Your Thesis Statement
Your thesis statement is the main thought or the essence of your message summed up in one sentence; it is the picture on your own box as you develop your communication puzzle. "The hardest people to follow are communicators who are searching for their core idea as they deliver their message. If you don't know your main point, how will anyone else?"
"Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can't, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it." -- Robert Frost
Do Your Research & Write Your Outline
Crafting your outline and completing your research can be done in any order, but they must be done because "your content will only be as good as your research" and "a good outline makes your message solid and holds it together." It's not just about fleshing out your message; you're looking for the right material. It obviously needs to be relevant to your message but also connect with you and be memorable to your audience.
The Beginning, Middle, and End
Once you've done your research and created your outline, it's time to craft the content of your message. Consider starting with a question, quote, historical reference, promise, emotional connection, etc., to grab your audience right away. Plan your transitions with pauses, keywords, or other methods of moving through your outline. And close the communication with a review of your thesis statement, a unifying story to summarize your message, or a call to action.
Throughout the process of crafting your content, ask yourself:
What will they learn from this?
How will they interact with me and the content?
How will it resonate with them emotionally?
What can ensure that they connect with my message?
It's unlikely that your audience will remember everything about your message, but you can intentionally use "phrasing that creates echoes in people's minds and hearts. They will carry it with them after the experience, and they will repeat it to others."
This week, answer these questions:
Which of these steps do you need to develop and why?
How would developing these steps impact your communication?
How can you be intentional in developing these steps?