Everyone wants to boost his or her professional skill set to become more credible and influential. The question is, which skills should we focus on? Better yet, what is the one skill that will boost our value the most? The answer is simple: The most important business skill to master is the ability to communicate ideas clearly and succinctly.
Given that we spend most of our waking hours communicating with others, it may be surprising that many of us struggle to communicate ideas in business. Why do we find it challenging to balance the flow of data and information to our audience? It’s likely because we have an abundance of sheer information, and we have difficulty finding the “sweet spot” of what to highlight and what to hold back. Even some of the savviest data wizards have trouble controlling the amount of information they present. Many believe that showing more data, more facts, more evidence will help prove their point, but in fact, the opposite is often true.
A better approach? Have a big idea — an inspiring, insightful and actionable preview of what’s to come in your presentation or conversation. Your big idea is the best way to cut through “noise,” connect with your audience and drive decision-making.
How to Craft Your Big Idea
Too often, we want to dive straight into our status update, program pitch or detailed recommendation. First, however, you must prepare your audience to care about what you are going to say. Carefully consider what the presentation is about and the one critical takeaway you want your audience to know or do when they leave. This simple exercise will help you discover and ultimately articulate your big idea.
You should be able to capture your big idea in one concise, conversational statement that is made up of two parts: the “what” of your story (what you want your audience to know or do) and one to three high-level benefits.
Here is an example of a big idea: A new performance tracking dashboard will improve business results. In this case, “a new performance tracking dashboard” is what you want your audience to know, and “improve business results” is the benefit.
The big idea should be the most important, high-level idea you’re presenting and serve as an inspiring, insightful, actionable preview of what’s to come. Like the trailer to a movie, it must stand on its own. It is the through line for your presentation, connecting every other (supporting) fact or piece of data. You should establish your big idea early and reinforce it continually throughout your presentation verbally, visually or both.
Finally, your big idea should always be audience-focused (not presenter-centric). It should never be about your program, your tagline or the details of your recommendation. It should always focus on something your audience will immediately care about. Otherwise … why should they listen?
Information Overload Saps the Power out of Your Ideas
Given that most of us must sell ideas throughout our careers, it is imperative to master the skill of always having a big idea to drive the conversation forward. When you do have a big idea, you forego the most common mistake in business communication: overwhelming your audience with too many facts and figures. By isolating your big idea and focusing on the crux of your presentation, you can motivate your audience to act on your ideas — whether it’s their first or ninth meeting of the day.