“We don’t want great oratory anymore, we want sound bites,” says sound consultant Julian Treasure his TED talk 5 Ways To Listen Better. “We’re so bombarded with information, we can’t cut through the clutter to hear what people say, let alone remember it and then act on it.”
For the uninitiated, sound bites are those succinct, snappy phrases that capture your core message. Whatever it is. Good sound bites are substantive; they give the speaker credibility and make the message more memorable.
If you want your idea to land, here are some tips to help you be brief, bold and memorable, essential for building a positive personal brand.
1. Know what you want to say. Have clarity and be single-minded. Mark Twain is known to have said “A minimum of sound to a maximum of sense.”
2. Get to the point. Be direct and explicit. “Men still run the world. And I’m not sure that’s going that well,” said Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, when promoting her book Lean In.
3. Be specific. Instead of saying “We want our customers to hula-hoop more,” say “we want more teenagers to hula-hoop for longer (time) and more often (when)”.
4. Use metaphor. Instead of “Oh my goodness it’s hard work cleaning a house when as fast as I tidy, my toddler just keeps coming up right behind me and messes up whatever I’ve just put right. It feels so pointless,” you could say “Cleaning a house with a toddler is like brushing your teeth while eating biscuits.”
5. Structure it. What | So What | Now What? This is especially effective in a business context. What is the point being made? What does that mean? What are the consequences? Or you could use this structure: Explain the situation | Describe the action you took | State the result | Close with a learning.
6. Use the power of three. Three points, three mistakes, three actions.
7. Include the original question. Particularly useful when being interviewed – the narrative flows and the sound bite can stand on its own. Like paraphrasing, it also helps to buy time to think about your pithy response.
8. Practice. Great sound bites are rarely accidental. They are the result of careful crafting and consistent practice. Especially useful if (like me) you feel less than your confident self in spontaneous speaking situations.
9. Use examples. One of the most potent and alerting phrases in the English language is “For example”.
10. Include a call to action. Tell people what to do, by when.
11. Don’t repeat yourself. It’s condescending and boring. As my 11 year old pointed out “Mom, you said that already. It’s only interesting once.”
Do you consciously think about speaking in a way that’s sharp and snappy? In your work, do you craft concise responses to frequently asked questions and then practice them? Does your child point out things you do wrong?