Think Leadership Ideas

ABC's of Communicating With Impact

What do these have in common?
  • An elevator pitch to a potential client
  • Making a point to your boss
  • Informing your team about new developments
  • Reporting on your division at the company meeting

In these and countless other circumstances, you clearly want to make your message appealing, brilliant, and convincing. You want to make it authoritative and bold… or at the very least, comprehensible. To deliver a message that sticks and has impact, think ABC... Attention, Brevity, and Clarity.

You must capture attention if you want your message to have impact - and do it fast. Jump right in. How? Try starting with a quote, a surprising statistic, a provocative question, or humor (a relevant one-liner, NOT a joke). Whatever technique you choose, be sure it is relevant to the point of your message. Remember to include to the emotional side of your message and speak to what people care about. Be true to yourself. A little creativity can go a long way.

Make it short. To the point. Less really can be more. Better to have someone remember one key idea than simply be exposed to a dozen bullet points.

Organize and present your message in a way that eases the amount of brainpower needed to follow along. Three things will amplify the clarity of your message:

  • understanding your purpose,
  • a logical structure, and
  • congruent delivery.

It’s difficult to achieve clarity in getting a message across if you are not clear about the purpose of that message. Think about what result you want from the message. Do you want action from the listener, their support for your actions, or for them to contribute meaningful dialogue prior to action being taken? Are you providing information or opinions, seeking information or opinions, or providing some data that others can use to gain information or form opinions?

Once you are clear about the purpose of your message, then make sure it has a logical structure that others can follow. Some typical structures for presentations include a problem-solution sequence, chronological arrangement, or side-by-side comparison and contrast. For maximum impact, make your key point or ask your main question first, then provide background information - not the other way around.

Finally, make sure your delivery is congruent with the message. Do your facial expressions and body language match your message? Is the setting conducive to what you want people to experience?

One big secret to obtaining attention, brevity, and clarity in your communication... preparation! Mark Twain said, “It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” While preparation is crucial to honing your best message, conscious effort made on attention, brevity, and clarity will heighten the impact of your remarks, whether prepared or impromptu.

Remembering your ABCs for impact can make a big difference, whether you are a line professional, the CEO, or anything in between. One of my clients sat through a long series of presentations and time was up before she had an opportunity to talk about her section. Undaunted, she stood up and said “I can tell you about us in one minute.” That alone grabbed everyone’s attention. She said her key point, and then sat down. You can bet most people remembered more of what she said than any of the previous speakers.

I’ve observed in my work with leaders, managers, and professionals that breaking the mold of mediocrity can be a struggle. If long, boring reports and reading detail after detail from PowerPoint slides are the norm, it can feel uncomfortable to break the habit. Take the risk, grab attention, make your message brief and clear. Then reap the rewards of communicating with impact.

by Tom Stevens (c)2004, 2005, 2009
Tom Stevens helps individuals and organizations create brilliant futures and make a difference. To contact him, visit

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