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The Sharpest Point

by Randall Craig on July 4, 2006

Filed in: Blog, Communication, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Presentations

Tagged as: , , ,

Most first impressions are formed within the first 30 seconds of conversation. Most hiring managers will take only 20-40 seconds to screen a resume. Most sales presentations will engage – or turn off – prospects within the first minute of interaction. What is the key to forming that first great impression?

To speak to others is simple: to teach/sell/inform/engage them is extremely difficult. Assuming they have an interest in what you are saying, the key is to focus on your key message: your sharpest point. Strip away the fluff, remove the deadwood that gets in the way, and get rid of the extraneous ideas that distract. If you want the other person to remember one thing – what should it be?

This is true both when you speak and when you write. For example, in the next paragraph, what is the sharpest point?

“There are several factors that contribute to our success, including market leadership, teamwork, pricing, and customer service. The most important issue is teamwork – and how to improve it. During our next sales meeting, we will make this our top agenda item, then we will talk about our new pricing structure, and close with the introduction of several exciting new products.”

If ten people were asked what the purpose of the meeting was to be, some might remember about the new products, some may say that it is the “sales meeting”, while others might mention teamwork. And if they did decide to prepare for the meeting, what would they do? There are so many points in this paragraph, that the sharpest point – the need to improve teamwork – becomes blunted. Sharpen the message by dropping everything that gets in the way. For example:

“When we meet, we will focus on improving teamwork – an important reason for our success.”

Or

“We will meet to focus on what makes us successful: teamwork.”

Or

“We’ll meet about improving our teamwork.”

Or

“We’ll meet about teamwork.”

From 60 words down to 4! The sharper the point, the greater your impact. And with such a focussed communication, people are far more likely to remember it – and act. This is true whether you are trying to sell a concept to your colleagues or a service to a client.

This week’s action item: When you next write a report, make a presentation, or even write an email, consider whether you are making your sharpest point. Before you hit “send” – or open your mouth – edit yourself first. The more you hone your blade doing this, the sharper you will become.  (More ideas on how.)

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to www.RandallCraig.com to register.

Randall Craig

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About 

Randall has been advising on Web and Social Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of seven books, including the recently released "Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business", and speaks across North America on Social Media and Web Strategy. More at randallcraig.com and 108ideaspace.com.

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