Sometimes you have everything you need in your message or content—it’s just not in the right order. That makes sense, of course. You’re the one writing, so your brain is going to put your wants and needs first. You’re going to lead with what you care about.
What you want to say isn’t what they need to hear. Sure, you may think they need to hear it, but they don’t… yet.
When you’re trying to get someone to care about whatever you care about (and more, act on it), remember that they aren’t where you are, mentally or philosophically. Your audience is reading what you write (or hearing what you say) from their perspective, not yours.
And their perspective wins.
That’s why your best bet is almost always to build your audience’s case for your idea, not yours. That means starting with the things they care about and building the case, the story—the Red Thread®—that connects what they say they want and need to your way of delivering those things to them.
Often that means simply rearranging what you’ve already written. Instead of leading with you, your idea, and the action you’re looking for, and then explaining why that delivers on what your audience wants, flip it around. Lead with what they want and then show why and how you and your approach helps them get there.
Want to see a great example of the power of this flip? Watch this episode of “What’s Missing From This Message?”. You can see how Canadian comedian and speaker on mental health Jessica Holmes rewrote a keynote description to do exactly that.Your best bet is almost always to build your audience's case for your idea, not yours. Click To Tweet
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On this episode of What’s Missing from this Message?, How to take what’s already in your descriptions and put them in the right order to make them even stronger. That’s exactly what we’re doing with the before and after versions of Jessica Holmes’ keynote descriptions. Stay tuned for more.
Jessica Holmes is a Canadian comedian and speaker who delivered some amazing keynotes offstage before the pandemic and wanted to update the descriptions for those offerings to the virtual delivery that she’s doing now. So she was kind enough to send me those descriptions and also to update and send me the final versions after she’d made the edit. So let’s take a look at where we started. I’m going to start with this first one, the virtual keynote, which she called Resilience in Uncertain Times. Now you can see that I had already sent some comments to her, but let me just walk you through what I said. Frankly, this is what I do with most of my clients when they send me things like this. So just thought I’d give you a little peek into that.
And the first thing you’ll notice is I had this question about the title, and the first thing I suggested was perhaps it made more sense somewhere, either in the title or in the description, describe what it is that she means by resilience. Now that’s important because an audience needs to know exactly what it is that you’re offering. And more importantly, that what you’re offering is something that they want. So may help to make sure, as I say in the comment, that she and her audience are on the same page and, depending on how she defines resilience, potentially give her a way to differentiate herself to her audience.
The other thing I recommended was that she try to build in something that was a little bit more outcome-focused. So my suggestions here were how to build or why humor is the key. But what she’s really looking to do here is to give, right at the title level, and this is something you can do too with blog posts, white papers, et cetera, give something right at the title level that tells people something that they want. That it gives them hope that they’re going to get that from what they’re reading or going to watch. And there’s an opportunity here to give it something a little bit different to set you apart. Most important thing there always, always, always though is give them something that they want. So this is why it’s helpful to make sure that you’ve got that kind of outcome piece built into the title.
Now, from here she goes on to say that, “The uncertainty of the pandemic has led to higher instances of stress, anxiety, and depression.” And the thing that I comment on here is that because she wants to give this and sell this to companies, she needs to think about what the companies are looking for and what the companies are dealing with right now. Because if the companies aren’t aware that they need resilience, then we may need to talk about how that ties into it. Or if they’re not worried about stress, anxiety, and depression by those names right now, how can she talk about them in a way that makes it a little bit more clear that this has something to do with the company itself.
Now, the next thing I go on to say is that, in this engaging and fun, or she goes on the say, excuse me, is “Comedian and Bell Let’s Talk ambassador Jessica Holmes helps find a way of de-stressing using her trademark comedy.” Now, as I say in the comment, I really like this introduction from Jessica. But I feel like it needs to come later after she’s had an ability to A, outline what it is that she’s going to deliver. That is something that a company wants right now. And B, sets up a little bit more about what the talk is actually about. People really want to hear about how you’re going to solve their problem before they want to hear about why you’re qualified to deliver it. So that’s why it’s useful to kind of pull some of that information until after you’ve introduced those key elements of what you’re talking about, how it’s different, and what your point of view is.
Now in the second paragraph, another thing I’m looking at here is she just says, “In this funny and inspiring presentation,” which I note is very similar to the language up here, “In this engaging and fun presentation.” So just pointing out that it exists, and she could probably fix that redundancy a little bit. The other thing I’m pointing out here is the “Help others reignite their spark.” Now, that’s the kind of goal, that’s the kind of thing that I think people are looking for, to hear right in the beginning of a description like this. Because you can imagine somebody from a company and they’re trying to look at what can we do for our audience, for our team, for our employees. And you’re like, “Ah, they really need to reignite their spark. Well, let’s do that?” And if I saw a description that said, “Hey, do you need to reignite the spark of your team?” And they’d be like, “Yes, I do.” And then Jessica would be like, “Well, fabulous, because I’ve got a great keynote that can help you do just that.”
And that’s the kind of thing where, I think, generally you want to be thinking about, in the case of what Jessica has already outlined here. Is it more likely to suggest that companies are looking to reignite their spark with their employees? Or that they’re actually at that step of stress, anxiety, and depression and trying to relieve that? Both could be true, okay? And this is where you want to make a decision about which audience this is really aimed for. Is it aimed for the people who already know that stress, anxiety, and depression, are the issue at hand, that already know that they want to build resilience? Or is it for folks that are really saying, “Hey, I want to help others ignite their spark, but I’m not quite sure why they don’t have it right now and what we need to do differently?” So just being aware of what your audience is looking for can help you decide what order to put these things in.
We’re going to see in the after what Jessica chose. But just note, as I was going through, that these were a couple of the different things. Like we need to understand resilience. Does the audience want it? Is that how they talk about it? Same thing with stress, anxiety, and depression. Is that what the audience wants? Is that how they talk about it? Help others reignite their spark. Is that what the audience want? Is that how they’re talking about it? These are some of the questions that I’m asking as I’m reading a description like this, and these are some of the questions you can ask of your own descriptions and your own summary paragraphs, and frankly, even of your own content.
Okay, let’s keep going. Now in this next paragraph, there is some beautiful detail about what Jessica is planning to do with her presentation. She explores how mental health is affected by our current isolating climate. She tells us how she’s going to give us coping strategies, including ways of de-stressing and feeling more empowered and joyful. She’s going to validate what participants may be feeling and offers hope with small, easy steps to build resilience. I adore that kind of detail because somebody who is already starting to feel like Jessica is the right answer for them will want that kind of detail to really get a sense of, more concretely, what they’re going to get in that talk. My suggestion here was, was there anything that she could add that was a little bit counterintuitive? The reason for that is not that there wasn’t anything really missing from this. It’s just an opportunity to further differentiate herself from other folks in the market who might be talking about a similar thing.
From here, she talks about a little bit of the content coming from positive psychology and a little bit more of the outcomes. So in this last paragraph, she talks about, “It’s also a chance to laugh. Holmes will deliver the bulk of the talk live with some customized pre-taped comedy, where she deals with the humor of her trademark characters.” Now, you can see in the comment that I had here that my question was, is there anything that she can do that’s more with this description of the trademark characters? Can she describe a little bit about what role they play or how they function in the talk? Just to give the potential audience a sense of, are these just characters for character sake, are they there for comic relief? Or are they some really differentiating way that Jessica uses to help illustrate some of her main points? So this was the before. So let’s take a look at what Jessica did with these comments so that you can see how she replaced and filled in what may have been missing from the message in the first place.
So here is the after. Now, the first thing that you’re going to see here is that she’s done two things with the title. The first is she’s created this beautiful ownable phrase that gives this differentiating piece, this idea of Power Laughs. Love it because it describes not only, I think, the experience of her virtual keynote, but it also gives her a way of talking about what effect humor can have. Speaking of effect, you can see that she’s now built-in an outcome into her title. So it’s “Using Humor to Build Resilience.” So based on this, she’s clearly decided, and I think in the right way, that her audiences are already looking to build resilience. And she’s saying the humor is an unexpected, unfamiliar, perhaps unconventional way to do that.
Perfect kind of title there because it gives the audience something that they want, “Hey, we need to build resilience,” and does it in a way that they don’t expect, using humor. And, just icing on the cake, she’s given us this great ownable phrase that now Jessica can go out in the world and say that she gives Power Laughs, and I just love that title.
Now let’s look at what she did with this first paragraph. Which, originally remember, what I was suggesting she did was start with a little bit more about what the companies might be experiencing now. What the consequences were of that, and give us a little bit more information about the general context of the talk before she goes into herself. So let’s look at what she did. She says, “Stress is a part of life, especially with the triggers that a pandemic brings, but leaving it unchecked can,” here it comes, “affect your team’s morale and ultimately your bottom line.” You see, now she’s taken that topic and tied it to something that the company might experience right now and consequences that they’re trying to fix. So A1 thumbs up.
“Using humor and other simple coping mechanisms can improve the emotional wellbeing of individuals and ultimately, the companies they work for.” So now she’s introducing again a little bit more about the topic of this. So she’s saying, “Hey, you’ve got these negative effects, but humor, and these coping mechanisms, can actually help you solve that,” explains a little bit more, “we’re more likely to live healthy, productive lives if we maintain our physical and emotional resilience, and this,” and now she introduces herself, “laugh-out-loud presentation offers simple, achievable steps to help others go from treading water to reigniting their spark.” This is just really, really, really strong because she’s talking about the nature of the presentation. Specific things are going to happen in it. And she’s helping to further define how her audience might be looking at their current situation, treading water, to what they’re actually trying to achieve, reigniting a spark.
“Jessica proves that comedy is more than an entertainment form; it’s a powerful filter through which you can navigate stressful situations, empowering you to recover from setbacks and face challenges more easily.” Again, just really, really, really strong. And I love that she kind of pushes against some conventional wisdom here. It’s just like, “Hey, comedy isn’t just for entertainment. It’s actually a powerful filter through which you can navigate stressful situations.” This is a really, really strong case, not just for the keynote and Jessica, but also for humor as an unexpected and yet effective way for companies to achieve what they’re looking for, getting their companies, getting their teams to face challenges more easily and overcome setbacks. Just love this.
All right. So from here, she goes on, and she takes some of those great details she had before. And now she breaks into a bit more of a bulleted list here, which I think works well. So, “Presents proven coping strategies that use humor to help you and your team take simple, sustainable daily steps to thrive, reconnect with your passion, bond over shared challenges, change how obstacles are perceived, so they’re easier to overcome.” Again, really, really strong here. And she’s just listing out the kinds of things that potential companies could say, “Yes, we want that.” And she’s already established the fact that she’s going to do that in an unexpected way.
Now she introduces her. And I think this is absolutely the right place because once a company goes, “Yeah, that’s something that we want,” two, “interesting approach, I could see why that could be helpful.” Three, “All right, these details are really looking at things that I, and that we want to know more about.” That’s when their brain goes, “Okay, but who are you?” And this is where she just does this beautiful job of wrapping it up here. “Inspired by her ‘second chance at life’ after recovering from depression, Jessica trained as a wellness coach. She recommitted her life to sharing the tools that create lasting joy and fulfillment through her invigorating keynotes and as an ambassador for Bell’s Let’s Talk initiative.”
So great credibility of saying, she’s been there, she’s done this, she’s got all the things and all the credentials to back up why she’s the right person to talk here. And then she does this beautiful wrap-up at the end. “She’s honored to share hilarious and meaningful anecdotes, and even a few impressions to,” here’s the effect of them, “drive home a message of empowerment to help others thrive and find the power in their laughter.” Which ties it back to the title, which is just beautiful, and I love it. The last few italics there are just details about how long it’s going to be, how she’s going to present it, just useful little details.
So what does all this mean for you, and what might be missing from your message? Take the time to really take the audience’s point of view, and even better, have somebody who represents your audience take a look early because that can help you find what’s missing from your message. It can help you find that that information is there, but maybe just not in the right order. If you enjoyed this, if you’ve got a piece of content that you want me to take a look at in a similar way, send it to RedThreadMe@TamsenWebster.com. Thanks again for watching I’m Tamsen Webster of tamsenwebster.com. Look forward to seeing you on a future episode.
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