Ah, the key message!
For public speakers, it’s like the holy grail: A mythic object with magical powers.
When you have the right key message, you can easily:
- Adapt your speech for any audience
- Find three persuasive points to illustrate and support it
- Respond to questions (even tricky or negative ones)
So What is This Key Message, Anyway??
It’s the big point — the heart, soul, and center — of your speech.
It’s the one essential thing you want your audience to remember; the thing that, if they don’t remember anything else, you’ll still have communicated what matters.
Here are some examples of key message.
- “Our political process has been totally hijacked by big money contributors.”
- “If you give it a chance, you’ll love our new accounting system.”
- “I believe we can succeed; what’s it going to take to get us there?”
Notice that a key message doesn’t always have the same function. The first key message above introduces an argument. The second one tries to motivate. The third poses a question to be considered.
But even though these key messages lead to very different speeches, they’re united in being the one essential thing that each audience needs to know.
(They also pass a second test: If the audience believes these key messages, the speaker if closer to getting what he wants; but that’s a post for another day.)
Your Key Message Should Be About Them
In the second example above (“If you give it a chance, you’ll love our new accounting system.), notice that the key message points out a benefit for your audience. They will love the new system. This is a good thing, right?
This is a much better approach than talking about yourself (“If you give the new accounting system a chance, my life will be much easier”) or even your organization (“It would really help our company if you’d give the new system a chance.”)
It’s not that hard to turn your key message around and focus it on your audience instead of yourself. In this clip, from a workshop at New York’s In Good Company Workplaces (a learning, networking, and working space for women entrepreneurs), I show photographer Alice Garik how: