This Extreme Editing Exercise Can Help You Nail Your Core Message

A fun, but challenging method for finding focus

I looked up at the clock. 11:58. Only two more minutes before the world’s most boring meeting would finally end.

As I started quietly gathering my things, I felt my spirits lift at the thought of my lunch waiting for me in my office. All was good until I heard her voice.

“Can I just say something real quick?” she said.

Oh no, I thought. Not Linda.

Linda was brilliant, kind, and a great asset to the team, but she never said anything “real quick.”

She was notorious for minute-long pauses in between thoughts as she carefully crafted her ideas.

She always had to insert several stories to get even the most basic point across.

Linda liked to ramble.

I felt my heart drop at the realization that my lunch would be waiting for at least another 15 minutes while she took her sweet time to tell us something that could easily be shared in a three-sentence email.

We’ve all been there — stuck in the middle of a lecture, conversation, meeting, or presentation where the speaker will not get to the point.

These days, with social media and online formats, it’s easy to think that we have all the time in the world to share our message.

The reality, however, is that if we want people to pay attention, we need to be intentional with the time we take up.

So before you worry about creating content or trying to polish that PowerPoint, make sure you know the answer to this vital question:

What is the ONE thing I want my listeners/readers to take away from my message?

And if you’re not sure, here’s a fun little exercise to help you figure it out:

  1. Write out everything you think you want to say. Don’t edit. Just get it all out. (Your paper/screen has a better attention span than us humans.)
  2. Cut HALF of it. Take that red pen or get intimate with your delete button and go to town. However many words you had when you first started, reduce it by 50%. Leave only the essential.
  3. Repeat step two until you are left with one single sentence.

Make no mistake about it: This isn’t an easy exercise. Each pass, you’ll have to make more challenging decisions about what needs to stay and what can go.

But it’s a great practice in honing in on the core value of your message.

Want to see it in practice? Keep reading as I take this very article and chop it down to one single sentence.

Round One: 421 to 211 words

I looked up at the clock. 11:58. Only two more minutes before the world’s most boring meeting would finally end.

“Can I just say something real quick?” she said.

Oh no, I thought. Not Linda.

Linda was brilliant, kind, and a great asset to the team, but she never said anything “real quick.”

We’ve all been there — stuck in the middle of a lecture, conversation, meeting, or presentation where the speaker will not get to the point.

If we want people to pay attention, we need to be intentional with the time we take up.

Before you worry about creating content or trying to polish that PowerPoint, make sure you know the answer to this vital question:

What is the ONE thing I want people to take away from my message?

Here’s a fun little exercise to help you figure it out:

  1. Write out everything you think you want to say.
  2. Cut HALF of it. However many words you had when you first started, reduce it by 50%.
  3. Repeat step two until you are left with one single sentence.

You’ll have to make some challenging decisions about what needs to stay and what can go.

But it’s a great practice in honing in on the core value of your message.

Round Two: 209 to 97 words

We’ve all been stuck in the middle of a lecture, conversation, meeting, or presentation where the speaker will not get to the point.

Before you worry about creating content or trying to polish that PowerPoint, make sure you know the answer to this vital question:

What is the ONE thing I want people to take away from my message?

Here’s an exercise to help:

  1. Write out everything you think you want to say.
  2. Cut HALF of it.
  3. Repeat step two until you are left with one sentence.

Practice honing in on the core value of your message.

Round Three: 97 to 39 words

What is the ONE thing I want people to take away from my message?

Try this:

  1. Write out everything you think you want to say.
  2. Cut HALF of it.
  3. Repeat step two until you are left with one sentence.

Round Four: The core sentence

What is the ONE thing you want people to take away from you message?

Well, what is it?

Speaking Coach + Messaging | Helping you find the right words and nail the non-verbals. Find your idea worth sharing with my free guide: www.robinkonie.com/idea

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