Saturday, March 29, 2008

Improve Your Message--Say It Badly

Copywriter extraordinaire Jim Logan recently posted the following advice:

Every time you find yourself presenting, speaking, writing, or otherwise communicating with someone and you find yourself saying something like “What I mean by that is…” – stop yourself. Whatever you say afterward is exactly what you should have said in the first place.

The reason this works is that your preface acts as a psychological crutch--because you've already lowered the audience's expectation of eloquence, you're free to say what you mean without feeling the pressure to say it well (which, ironically enough, generally causes people to say things badly).

I even institutionalized this at Symphoniq. Whenever people were struggling to express a complex thought, I asked them to "say it badly" first. Then I'd write down what they said and read it back to them.

More often than not, "saying it badly" resulted in a much better message than any of their previous efforts.

Try this technique for yourself, and let me know how well it works for you!

2 comments:

Hillary said...

I've often thought that the reason I am a much better writer than I am a speaker is that in speech, there are no rough drafts! I have long maintained that spoken and written English might as well be two different languages--as different as driving a car and piloting a sailboat--and that each requires a totally different skillset at the technical level. I will try your technique....

Chris said...

The difference between speaking and writing is like the difference between improv and scripted comedy.

There is an immediacy and interactivity to improv that makes the experience compelling, even though the actual performance is much less polished.

The trick to speaking well is to let go the notion that speech should be as polished as the written word, and focus instead on emphasizing the immediacy and interactivity that make live such a impactful experience.