I remember when I was little, there was a television game show called "Name That Tune" where contestants would try to guess a song by low-bidding on number of notes they needed to name a tune. If a contestant bid one note, then he could not be outbid so he had to know the tune or he lost.
Similarly, if you can name a company based on its one-word brand (assuming it is positive), then it will dominate both the mind share and the market share.
With people's attention span getting shorter every day, what is a company to do? Maurice Saatchi, co-founder of the advertising agencies Saatchi and Saatchi and M&C Saatchi, in this article in Financial Times titled, "The Strange Death of Modern Advertising," writes about the importance of "one-word equity" today. The reason for this is, "Because nowadays only brutally simple ideas get through. They travel lighter, they travel faster."
For example, if I say "search," what company comes to your mind? Google.
What about "innovation?" Apple.
What about "books?" Amazon.
The one-word branding is an advertising concept, but it can be applied to a speech since every word matters, and it is your job to keep audiences' attention. The one important rule in speaking, as in advertising, that is often hard to follow is the following: More words you use, more people you lose.
What is the one word that best describes your speech?
Is it "investment?"
You better know this before you move to the next step.
To build your one-word pitch, you have to test this out on people to gauge their interest. You have to keep tweaking the word till it starts resonating with people. The word you come up with is the word you want people to say after you have given your speech. If they can't do this, then you probably did not do an effective job of focusing on the one word. Lao-Tzu, a philosopher and poet of ancient China, once said that "The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." Similarly, building a thousand-word speech also begins with one word.
The purpose of the one-word pitch is to evoke the following response: "Interested."
I work with so many startups that never think of their speech being a product and then go on to build a build a product and soon end up in a zombie state. This negative predicament could have been avoided if they had viewed their speech as a product. One thing you never want to forget is that a speech is a sales tool. As they say in sales, you are either selling or being sold. Which one is going to be depends on your ability to craft a compelling message that closes the deal.
"Stories are products; they can be monetized," says Doug Stevenson in this Google Talk titled, "The Power to Persuade --- The Magic of Story." He goes on to tell the story about how the founders of Google were able to monetize their story of developing a new search engine.
In 1995 Sergey Brin and Larry Page met at Stanford. They soon started to collaborate, and in 1996, they created their first search engine called BackRub. They kept working on it, and a year later they renamed it to Google and discovered that they had an amazing technology. To turn their vision of developing a search engine technology that could find anything anywhere on the web, they needed funding from venture capitalists. They met with Andy Bechtolsheim, one of the co-founders of Sun Microsytems, and told him the story of their vision and walked away with a check for $100,000. Was their story a product? Yes. That story subsequently gave them the start that eventually made them two of the richest guys in the world.
If speech is viewed just as a speech, then it will not achieve anything but not only waste your time, money and energy, but your audiences too. You may not vlaue your time, but your audience probably will not give you a second chance.
How to prevent falling into a speech "blackhole"?
Just like entrepreneurs who are using the Lean Startup concept, you have to use the "lean speech" method to build your speech. The purpose of using this method is so you don't waste time, money and energy. You are going to use an iterative method in building your speech to see whether your speech has a market and saleable. If it isn't, then you should not give a speech since it will not achieve anything. Speech can be either a start of something or end of nothing.
Lean is a concept that comes from the Toyota Production System (TPS) that Toyota pioneered for manufacturing. Recently, lean is also being used in developing software to eliminate waste while building a product that customers want through multiple iterations. The lean concept can be loosely applied in building a speech. The main idea of lean is to reduce and eliminate waste by constantly tweaking and testing so the speech resonates with your audience.
The bar for speeches is getting higher as people can watch excellent speeches on Ted Talk, Google Talk, and other places. Good speeches abound everywhere so if your speech is not good, then you have a bad product that simply will not sell. A speech is a product that either succeeds or fails; however, the good news is that you have the power to make it successful.
I will show you what I do which may help you next time when you are working on your speech. I break it down into four simple steps that will help you build your speech iteratively.
If you bought yourself some time, don't start celebrating since people have a very short attention span, something like eight seconds. You don't have much time to get your message across quickly, crisply and persuasively.
Roger Ailes, president of Fox News and was media consultant for Republican presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, writes in his book, "You Are The Message" that "it takes only seven seconds for you to make an impression on other people. Ours is an era in which both information and interpretation keep getting more tightly compressed. That seven seconds is crucial in the making and breaking of impressions, relationships, sales, and decisions that affect the direction of our lives."
If you can't make someone curious about what you have to say, then you will not get any more time. You have lost them for good.
A good example to understand the power of first few seconds actually comes from music. Do you know how the Beethoven's Fifth Symphony begins? For those who may not now, it sounds something like this: "Da da da daaa ...da da da daaa." It takes Beethoven less than five seconds to hook you to what's to follow. This is the musical sound bite that gets repeated throughout the first movement. At the end of the concert, you may not know anything else you heard, but you are certainly going to leave the concert humming, "Da da da daa,...da da da daa." Though this music was composed more than 200 years ago, people still today are familiar with its opening. Though Beethoven was a musician, not an orator, but he knew the importance of the first five seconds. No one has ever done it better than he.
Your speech does not have to reach the heights of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, but you too can easily come up with a sound bite---through tweaking and testing---that people will remember after your speech is finished.
The purpose of the seven second pitch is to evoke the following response: "Tell me more."
If you were successful in getting people's curiosity, then you have to capture their attention with little more details, but not too much. Again, you don't want to waste time, money and energy on something that is not going to resonate. The 30 second pitch will let you know whether the message is still resonating or whether you have to make further tweaks and test it some more. With some people, you are not going to get more than 30 seconds. For example, if you are on TV, you have to be quick, crisp and impactful. If not, then you are not going to be invited again. But in the attention deficit world we live in, this happens to all of us when we are communicating with relatives, friends, colleagues, and strangers.
You want to give them just enough to see how they react. Is it still interesting for them?
I like this line in the movie "Django Unchained," when Calvin Candie played by Leonardo Di Caprio says to Dr. King Schultz (played by Christoph Waltz) and Django Freeman (played by Jamie Foxx) after Schultz makes a business proposition to Candie. Candie, being intrigued, says to both men: "Gentleman, you had my curiosity, now you have my attention." With 30 second pitch, you are moving from curiosity to attention.
The purpose of the 30 second pitch is to answer these two fundamental questions: So what? Who cares?
Now you got the attention, you have at most three minutes to close the deal. If you get past this, you get to give a formal speech later. If not, you are done. This is what Ricardo R. Bellino did when he pitched a golf club and resort near Sao Paulo, Brazil and got to stay for close to thirty minutes and got Donald Trump’s endorsement of the plan he had put together..
Bellino describes how he was able to take his idea and pitch it to Trump and get accepted in his book, "You Have Three Minutes! Learn the Secret of the Pitch from Trump's Original Apprentice."
The three principles Bellino describes in pitching are the following:
- Capture attention of the key decision maker in two to three minutes
- Find out what will make the decision maker say yes, which Bellino calls the vulnerable point.
- Find something in common even though you may have some disagreements
When Bellino arrived at Trump’s office, Trump said to Bellino, “You have three minutes to sell me your idea,” according to New York Times article, “Trump Takes a Meeting, Now Backs a Resort in Brazil.” He got close to thirty minutes and got Trump interested in the plan.
Here is how Trump describes how the meeting went:
“...the decisive factor for me to buy into the idea was that it really was good. Bellino had analyzed the project in depth and I noticed it had every reason to work."
When you are working on this part of the speech, you have to make sure that you can deliver your message in less than three minutes, so you get invited to give a formal speech in more detail later. This is a method anyone can use to develop an excellent speech. Though it is hard work since there is a lot of tweaking and testing, but if a speech does not move anyone toward an action you are seeking then it is a waste of an effort. The purpose of "lean speech" method is to eliminate waste early so if you get a chance to give a formal speech, it will hit its mark.
The purpose of the three minute pitch is to either, using Trump speak, get hired or get fired. If you are hired, you get to give a formal speech to provide more details to see if you can pass the due diligence test.
Final Step: Path to "Perfection"
In my opinion if there was a perfect speech that was ever given, it was given by Abraham Lincoln. When he gave the the Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863, he redefined the United States with just 272 words. The person who was the main speaker, Edward Everett, spoke for two hours and, unless you are a historian, I doubt that many people know what he said.
With the exception of few historic speeches, there are no perfect speeches. The purpose of a speech for many of us is to survive and advance, not "spray and pray." You can give the best speech you can possibly give, but may fail to advance anything, or you can give a lousy speech and still advance something. You never want to forget that a speech is about generating results not performing an activity. If you follow the steps I have outlined, you are more likely to advance.