If your presentation could be boiled down to a bumper sticker, what would it be? It's a question I often ask of presenters, and it's a surprisingly hard one to answer. But if you can't identify a singular message, you may not have as strong a presentation as you think. Certainly you probably don't have one that will be remembered by your audience for as long as you might like.
Think of the presentations and speeches you've heard in the past year. Can you remember a single message from any of them? But you probably remember these...
Think of it another way: If a journalist was covering your speech, what would the headline be? I've mentioned before that Steve Jobs often literally provides the press with their headlines because his messaging is so distilled. Is yours?
I was reminded of all this recently when I read that the New York Knicks had commissioned a study to woo LeBron James to New York to play for them. Branding powerhouse Interbrand produced a 15 slide presentation showing that LeBron had the potential to earn north of $1 billion if he signed with the Knicks (including sponsorships and other business opportunities). Signing with any other NBA team would result in significantly smaller lifetime earnings. TheForbes article nailed the takeaway...
"What the Knicks Told LeBron: Come to New York and Make $1 Billion"
Actually, the real numbers are more complicated, and his "lifetime average value" with the Knicks is calculated at $983 million with a "lifetime maximum value" of $1.94 billion. But you know what? Who cares! New York was abuzz with news of a basketball player earning $1 billion dollars.
But nowhere in Interbrand's 15 slides was the bumper sticker/headline takeaway: LeBron James will earn $1 Billion as New York Knick. This was a classic case of burying the lead.
I pulled out the three most important slides from the presentation and spent 5 minutes "exhuming the lead." The slides on the left are the originals. The slides on the right are mine.
As you edit and wordsmith your presentations to death (as I'm sure was the fate of this one) and gather input from everyone and their mother, be careful not to bury the lead. If your message isn't clear enough to fit on a bumper sticker, it might not be clear enough at all.
Oh, by the way—in the end he signed with Miami. Now, I'm not saying it was because of a bad presentation...