Have you ever heard that cooking advice about how to know pasta is done? That you throw it at the wall and see if it sticks?
Have you ever done something similar with your messaging? Have you ever loaded up your copy or your presentation with all the amazing things your idea can and will do for your audience, hoping something—anything—will stick enough for them to act?
Unfortunately, the only thing sure to happen in both cases is that you make a mess, either of your wall or, dangerously, your message.
Why? Well, when I was explaining that very thing to the fine folks in my Red Thread mastermind group this past Spring, this phrase popped out of my mouth:
You can’t have more than one front door
Here’s the quick version of what I meant by that (and what I explain in this “Message in a Minute” video):
- GOAL: You want to reach the biggest number of people with your idea.
- PROBLEM: We often think reaching the biggest number of people equals presenting the biggest number of reasons people might find our ideas interesting. But instead of being an equal relationship, it’s actually an inverse one.
- TRUTH: After all, you can’t have more than one front door. Counterintuitive as it may be, the more aspects of your idea you offer initially, the less likely people are to act.
- CHANGE: Choose the “door” your audience is most likely to open—the aspect of your idea that’s most likely to spark their curiosity.
- ACTION: Find them on the Field of Audience Awareness.
- GOAL REVISITED: Once your audience opens the door, they’ll not only find what they wanted—the answer to their question—they’re likely to find all the other things your idea can and will do for them… and feel even better about the decision as a result.
How to apply it
That “you can’t have more than one front door” phrase became a favorite of my mastermind group: members would say it to each other when they spotted more than one question sneaking into their Goal Statements, or a list of features and benefits showing up as the opening to a piece of content.
And I get it: the urge to cast a wide net for your idea is natural—and good! Your idea, after all, likely could help multiple people with multiple questions to answer or problems to solve. Your idea definitely has multiple benefits that you see and that your audience doesn’t, yet. You also probably feel like, if they just knew all those things up front, that they’d convince themselves to act—you wouldn’t have to persuade them at all!
Except, that’s not what happens, at least not at first. When people first encounter your idea they are, by definition, inexpert about it. They don’t know what you know, nor can they. They’re limited in their ability to process information about it, because they don’t yet have the context their brains would require to do so. (For more on that point, see my comment about your brain being like a quilt in my previous post.)
Giving your audience too much information too early is like trying to water a single seed with a fire hydrant. It’s too much, too soon, and the seed never can take root (not in the least because you likely blasted it into the next county!).Giving your audience too much information too early is like trying to water a single seed with a fire hydrant. Click To Tweet
It’s a strange quirk of the brain known as the “paradox of choice.” It’s a concept I talk about more in the Change Statement chapter of my book, but the concept applies at the beginning of your message, too. The paradox of choice describes the inverse relationship between the number of choices someone has and their likelihood of acting on any of them. In other words, the more choices someone has, the less likely they are to act. (For your #swipefile: here’s the original “jam experiment” that defined this effect.)
I once heard someone say that most perfect games in baseball are broken up in the 9th inning. After all the pitcher has gone eight innings without allowing a runner on base when, tragically, either he makes a mistake, or one of his teammates does.
But in reality, perfect games are broken up in the first inning, or whenever the first mistake happens and the runner gets on base.
The same is true for your message, which is why it’s so important to focus on a single point of interest—an unanswered question—at the beginning. It focuses your audience’s attention and makes it as easy as possible for them to know whether or not your message is relevant to them.
The easiest way to do that? Put your audience, and your idea, on the “Field of Audience Awareness,” which I wrote about in-depth a while back. In essence, you’re figuring out all the questions your idea could answer and then deciding which of those questions your specific message will answer.
When you do that, you’re likely to find what feels to your audience like the “perfect” entry point for them—and for you, that’s usually the perfect place for your message to start.It's so important to focus on a single point of interest—an unanswered question—at the beginning. It focuses your audience's attention. Click To Tweet
Please note that many of the links are affiliate links, which means if you buy a thing I link to, I get a percentage of the cost, and then donate it to charity.
If you want to get your message in front of the biggest number of people, then this Message in a Minute is for you. Here it is: You can’t have more than one front door. See when we’re trying to get our message in front of the biggest number of people, we often want to give them the biggest number of reasons why our idea, our product, or service is right for them. But if you’ve ever been to a building that has more than one way in, then you know the feeling, it’s pretty confusing and you might be tempted not to go in at all. Well, that same thing can happen with your audience if they’re faced with too many options about your message.
So what you want to do is figure out what aspects of your idea will appeal most to them, which door will they be most likely to walk through. You’ll find that not only once they get into the room can you show them everything else about your idea, but you’re also more likely to get many more people to walk through that door. That’s been your Message in a Minute, I’m Tamsen Webster of tamsenwebster.com. If you want more detail about this particular message, then sign up for my newsletter at tamsenwebster.com/newsletter, and read more.
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