Think beyond your message - don't just mail it in

As the pace picks up at the beginning of the new year, it's easy to fall back on the same old communications strategies and tactics. So, now is a good time to remind yourself that it isn't enough just to aim to deliver a message, you have to do it in a way that connects with people and keeps them interested. Here are a few tips that will keep audiences listening from the start to finish of any speech or presentation.

News editors are skilled at enticing people to read stories with catchy headlines. Scan their work in the newspaper or web feed you read for colourful phrases and wordplay that you can adapt and use in speech texts and slide titles. For example, a Globe and Mail story about Oprah's interview style ran under the headline Oprah's shock and aw-shucks tactics.

Don't get overly focused on answering the questions what is our organization trying to achieve and how are we doing it? If you want people to take action, they need to hear the answer to an even more critical question. Why are you doing it? Answering the question why gives people the emotional push, or inspiration, to get behind your ideas.

If you write for someone else, take the pledge to pass along a speech or presentation script ONLY after you've read it out loud yourself. That rule also applies to anyone who acts as editor. Your changes may look great on the page; but the test is how easily the words roll off the speaker's tongue and into the minds of listeners.