by Doug Stevenson
As a leader, the ability to focus your message in such a way that people know exactly what you want them to do is critical. My Phrase That Pays technique will help you be a better leader. It is an aspect of advanced presentation skills.
A Phrase That Pays is a short phrase that summarizes your message. It is a call to action that tells your listener or audience member what you expect them to do. It’s like giving someone their marching orders. When they leave your meeting or presentation, they can focus on the action you want them to take. As a result, productivity is increased because people aren’t going off in various directions with different interpretations of what you want them to do.
The Jingle is the Thing That Makes Your Message Go Cha-Ching!
In advertising, jingles are the phrases that are used to market and sell products. Wal-Mart recently made the switch to a new slogan that reflected the need for a better Phrase That Pays. The old slogan was ALWAYS LOW PRICES. The new slogan is, SAVE MONEY. LIVE BETTER. The new slogan is more powerful because is tells the consumer what to do: to save money and therefore to live better.
A recent campaign by Sprite used the phrase, OBEY YOUR THIRST. Obey is a powerful verb. It creates urgency and, in the context of something as intangible as thirst, it’s also fun. With the placement of that ad in a context of a sport or activity, you have a winning slogan.
Other phrases that come to mind are those used to summarize an idea. Examples are: WALK YOUR TALK, MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN and DO THE RIGHT THING. Some phrases have become common parts of our daily language, such as GET OVER IT and LET’S DO LUNCH.
In the context of public speaking and storytelling for business presentations, these catchy and memorable phrases brand the main point of your story and/or speech. They are used to summarize either the point of an entire speech, or the point of a story.
In the context of a story, only use one Phrase That Pays per story. That same Phrase That Pays may also be the main point phrase for an entire presentation or keynote. When the audience remembers and repeats your Phrase That Pays, it will remind them of your story, which will in turn remind them of you.
Train Their Brain
Unfortunately, due to the data overload that is common to all of us nowadays, we seldom remember more than one or two points from an entire speech. Regardless of how many solid points you make, your listener will focus on the one or two ideas or concepts that had special significance for them, and those are the ones they will remember. The objective of the Phrase That Pays is to train their brain to remember the one or two points that you want them to take away. If you can program them to get the message you want them to get through message branding, your communication strategy will succeed. If on the other hand, they all walk away getting something different or perhaps nothing in particular, you have failed them. You have given them too much of nothing and not enough of something specific. Focus or fail.
The way that a Phrase That Pays actually PAYS, is very tangible. Your point is memorable; it sticks. Rather than getting lost in a forest of words, it stands out like a colorful billboard. It’s simple and easy to remember. Simple is good. Why do you think advertising jingles are so simple? Because they work.
Here are some guidelines for choosing a Phrase That Pays for your story or speech:
- Make it short and sweet. Use three words when possible.
- Make the first word a verb.
- Make it a positive call to action. Avoid negative words like DON’T.
- Use words that end in hard consonants like T or K.
- Use rhyme when possible, such as in WALK YOUR TALK.
- Deliver your phrase with rhythm and tempo as if it were a jingle.
A call to action is also forward moving and positive. A poor Phrase That Pays would be DON’T JUST SIT THERE. “Don’t just sit there” has a negative connotation. To make it positive and proactive, think about what you want them to do rather than what you don’t want them to do. What’s the opposite of just sitting there? How about, GET UP AND GET GOING?
Another point relating to the Phrase That Pays is this: repetition aids retention. Say the phrase multiple times in different contexts during your speech. Let them hear it up to six or eight times in a 60-minute speech. Let it be the theme that weaves throughout the presentation. Use it as a transition phrase from one story to the next. Find ways that it can show up in other stories as well. A wonderful device to use is to have your audience say it with you.
Regardless of whether you personally like the technique of asking the audience to do things or say things, the fact is, it works. Adult learning technology has taught us that when people verbalize what you’re telling them, their retention goes up to 75%; whereas, when they just hear it, their retention is only 10%. The payoff of the Phrase That Pays is that they not only remember your phrase, they repeat it out loud after you’re gone. You and the phrase become synonymous. When someone asks a member of your audience what your talk was about, they’ll say, without hesitation, “WALK YOUR TALK”.
In addition to saying the Phrase That Pays many times, I go an extra step and make tent cards that have the phrase on the front. On the front of the tent card is the phrase in big bold block letters. The IMPACT font is my favorite. Just below the phrase, in smaller letters, is my contact information: my name, phone number, website. The idea is that those who really like my Phrase That Pays and accept the challenge that it offers can take the card back to their home or office and put it up somewhere where they can look at it. It is now their personal affirmation card. Others in the office see it and ask about it. That leads to a discussion of my talk, which reminds them of me. In the event that someone needs a speaker, my name, website and phone number are right there in front of them at all times. I have now translated my Phrase That Pays into a personal branding and marketing piece, an advertisement that lives on long after I’m gone.
In conclusion, think about this: If you could summarize your entire talk in one phrase, what would it be? If the guy in the back row isn’t going to remember everything that you say, but he will remember one thing, what would you want that one thing to be? Now make it into a Phrase That Pays that is short and sweet, musical and rhythmic, and asks them to take action. This one technique will elevate the quality of your speeches and presentations and make you look like a professional speaker.
Doug Stevenson, president of Story Theater International, is the creator of The Story Theater Method and the author of the book, Never Be Boring Again.
His 10 CD – How to Write and Deliver a Dynamite Speech audio learning system, is a workshop in a box. It contains an 80-page follow along workbook. Learn more at: Dynamite Speech Home Study Course
Use the Phrase That Pays technique and you will set yourself apart as a leader who speaks with clarity and conviction, and who gets results.