Message First

Figure out what you want to say before you decide how to say it

If your slide deck is failing to get results, it may need more than a cosmetic overhaul. It may need a messaging overhaul.

The sales VP’s slide deck was confusing and wasn’t resonating with prospects. So the CEO said, “Send the slides to Steve in product marketing so he can make them look pretty.” And that’s exactly what the Chief Revenue Officer did. He sent me a Frankenstein mish-mash of new and existing slides that barely made sense and didn’t convey a clear message. Yes, they did need a cosmetic overhaul.  But more importantly, they needed a messaging overhaul first.

No amount of pretty pictures, professional layout, clever graphics, and fancy animations will make up for a weak message.  So why does message matter?

When you strip everything away from your presentation, only two things matter:

  1. Did the audience clearly understand and  believe your message?
  2. Were they compelled to take action based on your messaging?

Everything else – and I do mean everything – that you do to create the presentation only helps to achieve these two goals. 

So what is messaging?

At a high level, messaging is what you are trying to convey to your audience. Messaging incorporates:

  • Audience – The audience: who are they, what do they want to accomplish, what is their initial state of mind prior to your presentation? You can’t really know what you need to convey unless you know your audience.
  • Present state – What is the audience’s initial state of mind prior to your presentation? Perhaps they don’t think they have a problem. Or they don’t know what your product does. Or they don’t want to invest in your company.
  • Desired outcome – The outcome you are seeking – buying your product, investing in your company, changing how they think about a problem, encouraging them to behave differently etc.
  • Central and supporting messages – A series of related messages that move the audience from the current state to the desired outcome.

If you create a compelling message first, you will be in a great position to begin mapping out your slides.

Obviously a powerful presentation includes more than just the audience, present state, desired outcome and messages. But if you work on these 4 elements, you will be in a much better place to begin constructing your presentation. You’ll have a good understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish and that is the best guide as you move through the rest of the presentation development process.

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