by Cara Lumen
If you’ve read Sharon’s Book “What Your Body Says,” you’ll know that you are always sending non-verbal signals from your body that affect how people perceive you and respond to you whether you are aware of them or not. Becoming aware of your body language will strengthen your ability to communicate. But your words are important too – what you say, how you phrase it, what you don’t say, how you ask for information – all affect the outcome of your exchange. Although conversations are spontaneous, presentations are thoughtfully planned. They are structured, focused, and even rehearsed. I’m a writer and I have developed some unique steps to be certain that the words you choose inspire, motivate and attract your target community.
Students leave with an understanding of…
Years ago I was a teacher in my church community and in the teacher’s manual for each class it said “Students leave with an understanding of…” and it listed three or four points. I could do whatever I wanted to to make that class interesting as long as I made certain that the participants left with an understanding of those specific points. Not just a superficial recognition of those points but a true understanding – an ownership, an experience of how those ideas will affect their lives.
That’s teaching. And whenever we coach, speak, or write an information product, we are teaching. An old saying is “The teacher and the taught together create the teaching.” It’s an exchange that nourishes you both.
I later learned that “students leave with an understanding of…” is an advanced element of curriculum development. Now I use it before I write anything – articles, blog posts, ebooks, teleclasses, home study courses, radio shows or talks. Whatever your communication, be clear about what you want to communicate by listing the major points you want your listeners to truly understand.
Know what they need to know
What does your target community need to know? How much? How little? What foundation steps do they need to understand?
Orient your listeners at the very beginning. This may be as simple as saying “We’re going to talk about…” I call that the major hook of what you are going to say. For instance, the major hook of this post is how to write content that says what you mean. The subheads you see are smaller hooks that keep the reader reading and make clear what the topic is. The subheads also act as a summary of the point to be made in that section.
You have to know a lot about your target community before you begin to craft your content. Don’t you love the word “craft”? It brings out the artist in us. Writing a talk, or preparing a presentation, or writing an ebook or teleclass is all about craft. Kahlil Gibran says, “When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music.” And we want our heart to show in all we do and say.
What stage are your listeners in? Are they beginners, are they fairly advanced in the topic? Whatever level you speak to, be certain to lay a strong foundation. If they are beginners it’s a longer foundation, if they are advanced in their knowledge, a shorter intro to the foundation of your work will do, but always give them those few sentences which lay the foundation for them to hear what you have to say, that major hook upon which you build your talk.
Help them own it
I love creating exercises that help people own the material I am presenting. It can be verbal questions in a teleclass, writen questions in an ebook, or a whole workbook that helps readers find their own answers. You can use stories to help them relate to your point. You can show them how it did or didn’t work in someone’s life. Give examples, help them relate. Your job as a communicator is to help them get it – to absorb what you say and add it to their lives.
Keep it short
Probably the hardest thing to do in crafting a talk or writing an information product is to keep it tight. We are so filled with knowledge and ideas and excitement that corralling those ideas and culling them out is one of the trickiest things we are asked to do. A 50 minute talk may only have three major points. When you start getting flooded with ideas start thinking in terms of a series, particularly if you are writing content. Break it down into segments that will not overwhelm your readers or listeners. As a speaker, create two or three major talks that you can adapt to your audience.
What is the purpose of your content?
In a sales cycle you create a variety of price points so people can come participate with you at many levels – from free to a more substantial investment. But the main purpose of any information product is to build relationship, to give them great value, let them get to know you and your ideas and what you can do for them. Be really clear about the purpose of your content. Fill in the “Students leave with an understanding of… “ part very carefully, then keep your points targeted on those topics.
Always have a call to action. If you are giving a talk you can intersperse a call to action within your content like “That point is expanded more in my book which will be available at the back of the room after the talk.” A call to action may be a concrete discount offer at the end of your talk or information product. In an ebook or teleclass you can refer to another product that offers additional information on the topic, or offer higher levels of training. Or your call to action may be to do the exercises that help them own the material. Always have a call to action that keeps the reader/listener moving forward.
If you’ve been on many of the free calls that abound on the internet, you know that they give a lot of valuable information and then offer a service or a product at the end. The purpose is to give you value so you begin to realize they can help you and get you excited enough to sign up for whatever they are offering. And it often works.
What is the purpose of your content? What action do you want them to take because of it?
Keep it fresh
If it’s a talk, rehearse but keep it fresh. Practice standing up and moving around. Notice your gestures, make some choices based on Sharon’s recommendations so your body is reflecting what your words are expressing. If it’s an ebook or teleclass read it out loud. Arrange your notes so you can easily refer to them – big print, bolded words, read from your computer screen. Set yourself up for success by practicing so you own the material you are presenting.
For teleclasses and my radio show I have a script with bolded words to emphasize and specific times marked in the script in which I will offer exercises or questions to help them own the material. Deliberately build in a change of pace after you give some intense, factual information. Add that story, ask those questions, give them time to absorb it.
For ebooks I read them out loud to hear the natural rhythm and listen to be certain that I have given them all the steps in the order they need to hear them.
For talks I script it, then rehearse it and cut down my notes till I have one sheet or nothing.
But that’s my way. I get a little nervous when I hear people say “Oh I can talk about anything.” So can I but does that mean I have given real thought to what is needed by my audience or is it just about what I want to say. Be aware of who you are speaking to. Know what they need. Know what you want to give them. Watch them. Adjust when you see their response. Stay fluid, stay connected.
Show Your Heart
Love that audience. Put your heart out there. Embrace them with your words and your gestures. Draw them into your aura if you will, into your light, your enthusiasm, your passion. Share who you are with all you are. That’s how you can always say what you mean.
© 2010 Cara Lumen
Cara Lumen, MA, Your Idea Optimizer, helps thoughtful leaders effectively organize their ideas so they can educate and inspire their chosen community. As a Business Development and Curriculum Development Coach, Cara helps you create signature information products that build a community of like-minded seekers and give them insights that will change their lives and in turn change their world. She helps you learn to teach what you know!!!!!! http://www.caralumen.com or her blog http://www.passionatelyonpurpose.com