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Lesson 2. Define the Central Message - Pg. 6

6 Chapter 2. Define the Central Message In this lesson you learn how to develop the central message of a presentation and at what point to deliver it most effectively. A humorous cartoon depicts a man thrashing around in the middle of a large pond. On the shore sits a dog watching its master. The man calls out: "Fido, get help!" The second panel of the cartoon shows the dog in a veterinarian's office being examined by the doctor. Clearly the animal had mis- understood its master's message. How often does the same type of thing occur during a presentation? The speaker walks to the podium and begins talking. He or she presents a long series of colorful slides, filled with statistics, pie charts, and complex graphs. You try to follow along in the package of handouts distributed at the start of the presentation. While the information is interesting, the sheer quantity of it seems overwhelming. About halfway through the talk, your mind begins to wander and you start thinking about that partially finished project that's still sitting on your desk back in the office. Finally the speaker concludes and thanks the audience. As the speaker leaves the podium, you ask yourself: What point was he or she trying to make? Perhaps it was buried somewhere in all the data and you just missed it. Sometimes the speaker's point isn't clear or easy to spot, but far more often, the speaker never really makes a point at all. Develop the Central Message The centralmessage is part of your verbal skill set. Developing this message is the most important step in creating a successful presentation. Without a message, a presentation simply doesn't hang together. With a message, the entire presentation is like a great piece of music: All the notes fit harmoniously together around a central theme. The central message is the main point of your presentation. All the information you present should add up to one simple central message. Note Focus on the Substance Studies show that a few days after attending a presentation, most of us remember only about 5 percent of what we've heard. It's not surprising. With all the information we receive in a week, it's a wonder that any of it really sticks with us. Information is constantly being thrown at us in meetings, company reports, magazine and newspaper articles, television and radio programs, and on the Internet. Sometimes it's hard to remember what you read yesterday, to say nothing of last week or last month. Make sure you consider this whenever you prepare a presentation. If your listeners are only going to remember 5 percent of what you tell them, you want to be certain that it includes your central message. It is the core of your presentation. Everything else is just supporting data.