Get to the Point!: Joel Schwartzberg

A point is a contention you can propose, argue, defend, illustrate, and prove. A point makes clear its value and its purpose. And to maximize impact, a point should be sold, not just shared or described.

A surefire way to know if you have a real point—and successfully create one—is to apply a simple three-step test, followed by two bonus “point-enhancers”:

Step One: The “I Believe That” Test

Step Two: The “So What” Test

Step Three: The “Why” Test

Enhancement One: Avoiding Split Ends

Enhancement Two: Adding a Value Proposition

Often, a speaker will sneak two or more points into one using “split ends”: I believe moving our files to the cloud will (1) improve our carbon footprint and (2) make us more efficient.

If your point suffers from split ends, no shampoo will help. Whatever you gain by squeezing in multiple ideas, you lose twice over by diluting the impact of each. The audience is not only forced to divide its attention among multiple points but is also given no direction as to which idea is most relevant

the key is to avoid details and words that detract from your main point

In too many communications, declarations don’t go as far as they can to achieve full impact. If your idea can save lives, protect the peace, or make tons of money, why not use those magic words to sell your point

Your true goal as a communicator is to convey your point, not a precise arrangement of words, so feel free to use your vocabulary flexibly—just be sure your point remains concise

Effective communication hinges on one job and one job only: Moving your point from your head to your audience’s heads

Competitors and detractors might be looking for holes in your argument. But they both have the same wish: “Don’t put me to sleep.” In more actionable terms: “Make a relevant point.

Because these opening 15 seconds are so critical, I often recommend memorizing them

Also, recognize that these ice-breaking devices are not supporting your points; they’re delaying them. So it’s best to get in and out of a starting thought efficiently so you can quickly move on to your point.

The difference between delivering a book report and conveying a point is similar to the difference between recounting a movie’s plot and convincing someone to see it with you

Or between a nonfiction book’s table of contents and its blurb on the inside cover. In both cases, the first is a share, the second a sell

It’s about knowing what your audience wants from you

Before every event, ask yourself this: “What does this particular audience want and need from me?”

The mere sound of a question dramatically reduced the strength of the conveyance. This is why correcting uptalk is important

remind yourself and your staff that the burden of making sure everyone can hear the speaker is entirely on the speaker, not on the audience

Michelle Obama’s speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. If I’ve ever seen a perfect speech—from the first word to last—that’s the one.

Don’t customize your conveyance to match unfair biases in your audience—that’s their problem, not yours. Your job is to step up, even when your audience’s job is to grow up.

recognize that it takes twice as long for your audience to process a thought as it takes for you to say it.

Pauses create important gaps during which that critical understanding can sink in. Consider your points like water being poured into the soil of a potted plant—it takes time for the water to be absorbed and go deep

To avoid this, be aware of the moment you’ve successfully conveyed your point. When you get there, stop or conclude quickly to avoid self-sabotage. Deliver the goods, recognize that you have, and get the heck out

Don’t rob emphasis from your point and dilute the impact of your power period by rushing into a housekeeping item

This presumption forces a speaker to speak slowly, with greater volume, and with simpler language, which is always a good idea, regardless of your audience’s IQ.

The problem is, with each additional “and,” you’re diluting the power of your point by giving the audience other options to consider

called this problem split ends, but here I want to focus on how to spot them. It all comes down to the word and. Give all of your prepared speeches and reports the “And” Test by asking yourself these two questions each time: Do I need all of these qualifiers? What do I gain and lose by using only the strongest one? Chances are, by dropping extra “ands,” you’ll gain more than you lose

What you need is something to replace that destructive activity. In this case, the appropriate replacement is the pause. Your goal is to train yourself to sense when a nonsense word is coming and employ a pause instead

never apologize or even say “excuse me

Audiences remember apologies, and the words alone can do serious damage to the credibility you’ve built up to that point

Remember that by sharing your valuable points you’re doing your audience a favor; your audience is not doing you a favor. So even if you have a word bobble, a cough, a skipped page, or a hiccup, there’s no need to apologize or be excused. Just move on. If necessary, make a correction without an apology

never say how nervous, unprepared, or intimidated you might be

blurted admissions like these also decimate your credibility

Consider “I’m nervous” to be code for “I’m not a professional.”

What many speakers don’t realize is it takes much longer for an audience to hear and process a point than it takes for them to say it

Speed is hard to control, but brakes are not. In this case, your brakes are volume and pausing.

consider all audiences hard-of-hearing and very, very dumb.

it’s not public speaking people fear; it’s public humiliation

the solution isn’t avoiding public speaking at all costs; it’s avoiding the thought that you can make a complete fool of yourself.

When people ask me how to overcome public speaking anxiety, I focus on three ideas, none of which involve murdering Roy

Know your point

Know that the moment is not about you, or even your speech; it’s about your point. All you have to do is deliver it.

The key training is having your mouth and your brain collaborate on the conception and conveyance of a point

All other sources—from Roy, the liar in your head, to the face in your mirror, to the supportive colleague who simply says “you did great!”—are useless in providing accurate assessments of your public speaking success.

A presentation isn’t a memory test. Audiences often take notes and can typically get the PowerPoint decks afterward. So why subject them to relatively pointless pages when you could be sharing pages with substance?

use the present tense. These are active communications, so if you feel inclined to write or say, “I wanted to tell you,” consider changing to “I want to tell you.” Seems like a minor thing, but you would never say “I was proud to share with you . . . ” or “I was excited to announce . . .,” so don’t put your “want” in the past. Always put yourself in the moment.

Reading forces you to look down often and lose eye contact, and eye contact is crucial to engaging your audience. It’s very hard to read to an audience and come across as heartfelt at the same time

The audience is not reading your speech; they’re listening to it

By and large, listeners don’t remember your words; they remember your points—that is, if you make points

Lack of connection, diminished impact, injured authenticity, and a high chance for error—those are heavy prices to pay for the benefit of simply nailing some words

notes have only one purpose: to remind you of the points you need to make and the details you might otherwise forget, like statistics or names. Nothing else belongs in your notes

If I can make enough sense of those notes to give the speech myself, there’s too much information

notes that are so cheat-sheet-like that they make no sense to anyone but the speaker.

If what you’re about to do feels like you’re winging it, stop everything. Identify your biggest point, lead with it, and keep supporting it

The critical part of practice is when you actually deliver the speech out loud, with full words and sentences. It doesn’t require a camera, a mirror, or a colleague—just speaking in full voice

I don’t traditionally use video in my workshops for two reason

When we look at ourselves on video, we never ask, “Am I making my point effectively?” Instead, we assess images of ourselves as we’ve done with cameras and mirrors over the course of our lifetimes, asking “Is my hair in place? Do I look silly? Are my teeth white?” This inclination toward vanity makes it challenging to use video as a tool for improving the conveyance of points

When you choose to use a story to support a point, you need two things

A “strategic story”—one that proves, clarifies, or illustrates your point,

your story’s purpose is not fulfilled until you’ve explicitly connected it to your point

That relevance should sound something like this: “I shared this story because it illustrates how. . . .” Without that contextualization, you’re relying on your audience to do the heavy lifting—processing your point—themselves.

only you can drive home relevance.

So after you show each slide, say something like, “This is relevant because it (demonstrates how/proves that/supports my point that) XYZ.”

This need for explicit relevance is true even for slides that focus on background or history.

With PowerPoint, you’re simply visually reinforcing the ideas you’re conveying orally, which should never require complete sentences

PowerPoint slide should have no more than five bulleted lines and no more than five words per line

A communicator’s job is to convey points, not throw out words

Good presenters don’t let their tech toys make points on their behalf. They stand in the center of the speaking area, fully in the light, conveying points supported by the slides behind them

When I use PowerPoint, I don’t even mind blocking the audience’s view of the screen. I know they’ll see it eventually, and my primary goal is for them to get my points directly from me, the most qualified person to do that job

anyone making a criticism must also offer a corrective suggestion, or better yet, phrase the criticism as a suggestion

Unless you’re sharing gossip, your audience’s interest will start to wane somewhere between sentence four and five

Paragraph breaks are like tiny chapter changes—each one kick-starts the reader’s attention

your point needs to be sold, not just shared. So why leave the next step to chance? Reinforce your point with a specific recommendation or suggestion

The more calm and controlled you are, the easier that job will be

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