Offer sizzle, steak and aspiration in corporate speechwriting

Here’s why your PowerPoint slides should have no more than two bullet points apiece, accompanying an attractive graphic: 50 percent of your audience are kinesthetic learners—don’t lose them.

“Take a look at the stock options you just earned. See that company name?”

I was standing at the back of the room, watching a Fortune 500 executive do something remarkable.

Ron Daly, who was then president of the Telecom Business Unit at RR Donnelley in Chicago, understood that his employees were missing the big picture. They were reveling in the fact that theirs was the most profitable business unit in the company. And that, he knew, was a mistake.

To help the company prevail over aggressive new competitors, his employees needed to think of themselves as part of something bigger than a business unit.

“How many of you own stock in the RR Donnelley Telecom Business Unit?” he asked them. “Nobody! You own stock in RR Donnelley.”

Ron Daly got it. He understood the most effective strategy for any kind of communication: Don’t start with what you want to tell people. Start with how you want them to feel.

This rule comes from a snippet of wisdom that should be taped to the bathroom mirror of communicators everywhere: People may forget exactly what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.

And how, exactly, do you want them to feel?

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