What the Secret of Life and Your Presentation Have in Common

In the movie City Slickers, the gruff, leathery cowboy Curly (Jack Palance) reveals to world-weary sales executive Mitch (Billy Crystal) that the secret of life is one thing. When Mitch wonders, “What’s the one thing?,” Curly slyly responds, “That’s what you’ve gotta figure out.”

Your presentations work the same way.

Every presentation should be about one thing.

Every supporting point, every slide, every gesture you make should support that one thing.

Why? Your audience will remember only one thing. The more focused you make your message, the more likely it will be memorable. You might build your message so that it has three or five or ten parts, but each part should point back to the main topic.

In the workshop I taught last week for college faculty, for example, my one thing was “the design of your presentation matters.” To support that goal, I offered seven points to help attendees create better presentations.

Here’s another example. In this TED Talk, Matt Cutts explains how he changed his life by doing one thing differently for 30 days. His point? I did it, it worked, you can do it.

To make your message memorable, keep in mind Curly’s secret of life: it’s about one thing.

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