by Gary Lockwood
The next 30 seconds may determine whether you get your funding, make the sale or establish your point-of-view!
In this faced-paced, mile-a-minute world, you often have only a few seconds to get your message across. Most modern television and radio commercials are no more than 30 seconds. Where could you use an effective 30 second commercial message about your business? These mini-messages are ideal for investor meetings, networking meetings, trade shows, interviews, sales calls or any situation where you need to quickly promote your business.
How do you develop these messages effectively? Think in terms of "sound bites". Prepare your brief message just like a speech, with an opener, the content and the closing. Let's examine each of these in more detail.
The purpose of your opening is to grab attention. You must assume that your audience is generally as busy and preoccupied as you are. So you need to first get their attention with a question, "grabber'" words, humor or an interesting visual.
Using a question as an opener causes the listener to stop and think. "Do you want to change the world?" "How many new pros- pects do you want today?" "When do you want to feel good again?" Once you have their attention, your message can help them answer the question.
Grabber words are designed to startle, shock or at least cause your listener to want to listen to what's coming next. The first sentence of this article is an example.
A funny comment or an eye-catching visual are always effective ways to get the attention of your listeners in a hurry. Obviously, any of these openings must be relevant to your message, or they will confuse your listeners.
Once you have their attention, relate your main message. Since you usually have only three or four sentences, you need to craft this message carefully. The most effective message is the one that states what your business can do for the listener. In other words, talk about the benefits to be received by using your product or service. Don't say "I'm a dentist". Say " I improve the health and well- being of my clients. Healthy teeth help you look good and feel good".
The bottom line is that your listeners don't care what you do. They care about what you can do for them. Talk in terms of results, feelings, benefits, outcomes, ideas. Imagine your listener with a sign on their forehead that reads "So What? What's in it for me?" Remember, you only have 30 seconds. There will be time later to explain how you do these great things.
Here is where you ask for action. As a result of your 30 second commercial, you want your listener to do something or think something. Ask:
"When can we meet?"
"Give me your business card".
"When you think of shoes, think of The Shoemaster".
Also appropriate is your catchy tag line. The closing may be the only part of your message that your listener will remember. What do you want them to remember?
\So, there it is. Your miniature speech takes only 30 seconds. And it has a beginning, a middle and an ending. What can you do to make all this come out sounding and looking smooth, confident and compelling? Prepare and practice. Prepare by writing out your message, thinking through the key elements and deciding exactly what you want your listener to be doing or thinking at the end of your message.
Practice by saying your message aloud. Rehearse this brief speech. Saying it aloud causes you to pay attention to the sound and cadence. Practice in front of a mirror and you will see the gestures and body language that make up such a large part of the communication. Remember, it's not just what you say, it's how you say what you say that makes the difference.
For your 30 second commercial to really be effective, you must act like you mean it, sound like you mean it and look like you mean it. How do others realize that you really mean what you say? They notice your enthusiasm, your mannerisms, your tone of voice, your posture.
Part of your preparation is to be consciously aware of your non- verbal communication. If possible, video yourself giving your message. Replay the tape several times. Once to listen and observe the overall effect of your message. Watch it again without sound. What are you telling the audience by your posture, body language, facial expressions and your gestures? Do you look and act like you really mean it?
Replay the tape again with your eyes closed. Listen for distracting sounds such as "uh", "ah", "ya know" or sighs. All these things subtract from the effectiveness of your main message.
In our MTV-world of excessive sights and sounds and experiences, make your point and get your message across in a well prepared, well rehearsed 30 second commercial. Think of it as a brief speech.
Mix preparation with inspiration and you'll get a standing ovation.