I’ve avoided talking to you about messaging.
Have you noticed?
It’s a topic I know you care about. It’s safely within the boundaries of my expertise. I even started a little e-book to just get it over with, already.
But I feel like a fraud, and so I dance around the topic.
I don’t do messaging. Not for myself, anyway.
It’s actually worse. I never know what I’m going to say until I start talking. That’s also mostly true of my writing.
Here’s an example. Last week, I spoke on my first live PR panel at the Makeshift Society. About an hour beforehand, I called my mom to distract myself from the growing panic I felt at not having anything prepared. A more rational person might sit down to plan out some talking points. But not me. Instead, I distracted myself by walking around San Francisco and complaining to my mom that I had a cold.
And while everything went off beautifully (Makeshift founder Rena Tom confided afterwards that she regretted not taping the panel), I’m certain that messages would’ve diffused some of my fear. They’re like a security blanket for the presentation-averse.
So, I can tell you everything I know about crafting sound bites and writing your key messages. But it just feels insincere.
Because all I really want to say is this: Stop worrying so much about what you’re going to say.
The likelihood that you’re going to linger in obscurity because you’re afraid to speak is much greater than irreparably putting your foot in your mouth.
I’m telling you this both as a professional and as a person who’s dabbled with both extremes.
The problem with so many of our businesses is we don’t get out and talk to people nearly enough, not that we’re overly opinionated. The risks are so high, so personal, and the Internet has made it easy to rationalize away the need to force ourselves to truly enter the public sphere.
I get real-time feedback through blog comments. I don’t need to meet my readers.
I’m connecting with people every day on Twitter. Why spend the money to go to a conference?
I influence 1,000+ people directly through my e-mail updates. Why bother speaking to only a few dozen on a panel?
None of these can stand in for the insights you gain when you’re forced to answer an unanticipated question in real-time.
Until you test your messages (also simply known as the words you use to describe the stuff you do and know) in real-time, you’re only working in the lab.
Until you take live questions, you can’t know what your audience really wants to know.
Get out there and surprise yourself. It’s a lot more rewarding than sitting at your kitchen table google synonyms for words like connection or uniqueness.
Ps. I practice what I preach. Want me to talk to your group? E-mail me.
Pps. I feel bad for not including at least one super practical tip. So here you go. Your message is never about you. It’s always about your audience. Focus on the reader or the listener, and you won’t miss.