Have you ever noticed people scrolling through their phones while you speak? Even after explaining the entire scenario, has anyone asked you to do it again? Have you spoken for a couple of minutes and suddenly asked yourself what’s the point you’re trying to convey?
I’m sure you would have faced these situations at some point in your life. The reason is people are always distracted. The attention span of a human being is very less; close to 8 seconds.
However, it is subject to variation. We live in a world with information at our fingertips, right? So, grabbing someone’s attention has become even more difficult. According to research conducted in 2018-2019, we consume 105000 words on average. That’s close to 23 words per second. If we compare ourselves to computers, in a day our brain is consuming 34GB worth of information. This is what makes it difficult for a person to remember what you said.
To ensure retention in memory, you need to define the purpose behind what you say. There are two kinds of purposes – general purpose and specific purpose.
General-purpose is divided into 3 categories: To inform, to entertain, or to persuade the listeners. On the other hand, a specific purpose is more related to what is the exact thing you want the listener to do after listening to you. For instance, you must have heard the story of Rabbit and Tortoise. The general purpose of this story was to engage and inform the listeners whereas the specific purpose was the moral of the story i.e., slow and steady wins the race. Think about it, you might not remember every detail of the story yet you remember the moral of the story. This is because a person remembers the information which has undergone the process of reflection and deeper thinking. Thereby, if the specific purpose of your content intrigues the listener to think, you’ve done your job.
The next question hitting your brain must be How do I identify this and speak with purpose?
3 steps to speak with purpose
Define Your “Why”
“Begin with the end in mind” – Stephen Covey
Ask yourself, what is it that you want out of this conversation, and what’s in it for the listener? The answer to these two questions will precisely define the specific purpose. Like Kevin O’Leary says, a great communicator is the one who can summarize all the ideas and thoughts in less than 90 seconds.
For instance, if you were going to give a speech on How to overcome the greatest fear in the world – Public Speaking. Without much thought, the specific purpose of your speech is to provide the listeners with tips and techniques to overcome stage fear.
Keywords are those words that are closely related to your specific purpose. Here is a quick exercise. Try to write down at least 10-15 words that are directly related to your “Why”.
In this case, keywords are – anxiety, public speaking, sweating palms, fidgeting, crowd, nervousness, mic, judgment, script, and practice. While you speak, you have to ensure to craft your message using these keywords. Keywords help in keeping your speech to the point. It is also a great way of emphasizing your key message.
Data Tells Story Sells
Irrespective of what era, we humans love stories. Storytelling is the best tool you can use to instantly connect to your listeners. It helps the listeners’ visualize what you say and relate to it. According to a Stanford research study statistical data has a retention rate of 5-10%, but if coupled with stories/anecdotes, the retention increases to 65-70%. Why do you think you still remember “The Rabbit and Tortoise” story? It is only because the message was explained in a very vivid and simple manner. Next time, narrate a personal story or anecdote to extract the specific purpose out of it.
In communication – Less is more. Aim to convey more with fewer words, which is a mark of an accomplished communicator. So the next time you speak, remember to speak with purpose.