When you help others, do you ever take a moment to sit back and realize how much you learned along the way? Often some of us will work harder helping someone else than helping ourselves. Do you think that is true for you?
As you may know, I’m passionate about helping to make it easier for people to reach their audiences. I love the “challenge” of creating programs that do just that. To me it is like putting together a puzzle without all the pieces, and you have to create some and make them fit.
How did I learn about the power of the premise? Two years ago I somehow convinced Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE to join me in creating a program that helps presenters write a compelling speech from scratch. Since I created my keynote over years of trial and error, and many of my students have asked me, “How do you write a speech?” I knew I needed to create the program, creating a learning program is my specialty, not creating a speech writing program.. I knew creating programs and Patricia had the answers I needed to put into the process. So, I asked.
If you’ve met Patricia, you know that it is almost impossible to spend much time with her without gleaning some amazing wisdom. Working closely with her over two years on that project, I realized one of the core concepts that had been quite clear to me; is the premise.
I was first exposed to the idea in my stand-up comedy days. I remember one of my comedy mentors, when put on the spot to define it, said premise was the thought or idea that the joke was based on. Not that this person was wrong, I still didn’t get it, or why I had to understand it.
What is a premise? As defined by Dictionary.com:
As you may see, it is still not clearly defined for us as presenters. In Create Your Keynote by Next Week we define premise as; the central theme or the idea that you are selling. This is the reason you are getting the privilege of people’s time. Why do you need a clear premise to give a compelling presentation? It is the “walk-away benefit” that is the foundation of the speech. You may not ever actually say it in your speech, yet the implied benefit must be there. It is the new “perspective” you are leaving with your audience.
The reason you must have a clear premise is that you will spend the rest of your presentation “proving” your premise. For example, if you are a corporate presenter, your premise might be: Why switching to this new vendor will cost more up front while saving us money in the long run. The premise for an entrepreneur might be: Why community involvement builds rapport and impacts your bottom line. My “YouTube it!” program’s premise is: Every small business owner can create profitable videos, and they can have them posted on YouTube within twenty-four hours. The premise of the Create Your Keynote by Next Week program is: every presenter can create a world-class speech.
One of the big ah-ha’s I gained from Patricia was that a solid premise should get the audience to think, “Well, how?” Perfect! Now they are leaning in and curious. That is challenging enough with today’s savvy audiences. Consider if there was a presentation skills keynote, with the following premise: there are three keys to public speaking. The audience might be thinking, “what are they?” That, however, is not enough. We need our audience to lean in and want the answers.
The first step that will lead you to your premise would be to ask yourself, “When I’m done speaking, what do I want my audience to do, think or feel?” This is same question my fellow World Champions teach. It is also the same question that I ask my event planners before speaking at conferences. I ask them again when I get to the meeting site.
Whether you are starting to write your speech, or promoting it to an event planner, getting clear on the premise is your crucial second step. Every presentation, even if not selling a product, is selling an idea. Your premise also becomes your editor when creating the speech. What should I use for an opening? Closing? Which stories should I use? You choose the best ones that support your premise.
In our Create Your Keynote seven-step process we took the time to point out the common mistakes most presenters make on each step. One of the most important mistakes is not having a clear premise. If you are not clear on your premise, how will your audience ever be clear? What will your premise be?
Please leave your thoughts and comments below!