This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Get to the Point!" by Joel Schwartzberg. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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Do people get the point you’re trying to make? What is the key to learning how to get to the point?
If you’ve identified and honed your point, you’re ready to market it. In Get to the Point!, Joel Schwartzberg says the single most important goal when presenting your point is to make a strong pitch that resonates with your audience.
Let’s look at the different ways you can learn how to get to the point.
Understand Your Audience
To make a strong pitch or presentation that will help you know how to get to the point, you first have to know who your audience is and what they want from you, so you can tailor your message, language, and tone for them.
For example, if you’re giving a speech to students at an all-boys high school, your delivery and the stories you use to illustrate your point should be relevant to them and should be different from how you’d convey your message to a roomful of female entrepreneurs. With the first group, you might take the tone of “coach” or “mentor,” while the second group would appreciate your talking to them like a peer.
Pitch Your Point Powerfully
Once you understand your audience, the next step is to make a powerful pitch. Schwartzberg argues that you must actively market your point to your audience; a casual conversation with them about it isn’t enough. He recommends seven strategies to keep yourself and your audience focused on the point you’re there to make:
1. Silence your inner critic.
- Before your presentation, recite what you’re going to say out loud until it’s ingrained in your mind. Know your material inside and out to boost your confidence.
- Take the pressure off by reminding yourself that your speech is not about you—it’s about the point you’re making.
2. Choose the first word you’re going to say and lead with it.
- To avoid leading your presentation with weak, meaningless words like “so,” “um,” and “well,” which convey discomfort, try “hello,” or simply introduce yourself.
- Only tell stories to warm up the audience if they illustrate the point you came to make.
3. State your point, and the consequences of not supporting it, using clear, direct language.
- Your goal is to create a sense of urgency to compel people to action. Don’t present your point as a meandering laundry list of why it’s a nice thing that you’d like your audience to consider at their leisure.
- Make just one point per sentence to avoid splitting your audience’s attention between two or more concepts at a time.
- Eliminate unnecessary adjectives that muddle and dilute your message.
4. Project confidence.
- Phrase your point as a statement, not a question. Sounding uncertain will make the audience question you and your point.
- Don’t apologize or display insecurity, which can undermine your audience’s trust in you.
5. Eliminate physical distractions that disrupt your connection with the audience.
- Fiddling with PowerPoint clickers, pens, and water bottles turns your audience’s attention away from your point, and podiums and lecterns are physical barriers between you and your audience. Consider which tools are essential for you to present your point, then interact with them mindfully.
6. Speak up.
- Raising your voice projects confidence in your point and yourself, and it gives others confidence in you and what you’re saying. It also helps you slow down.
- Stopping briefly when you’re speaking can give you a moment to collect your thoughts so that you can deliver them succinctly.
- You can also use pauses as a substitute for meaningless, distracting words like “um,” “ah,” “uh,” and “so.”
- Pauses allow you to build your audience’s anticipation about what’s coming next.
Stay Laser-Focused on Your Point
Once you’ve driven home your point, allow nothing to distract you from it. Schwartzberg argues that your point is your grounding and guiding principle—the thing you should always come back to if you get lost or distracted.
For example, if someone challenges your point or asks you to respond to something unrelated, and you get confused or rattled, Schwartzberg recommends turning the conversation back to your point with a directive statement, such as: “Here’s the point…” or “The most important thing to focus on is…” followed by your point.
Conclude by Restating Your Point
By now you know and have honed, marketed, and resolved to remain focused on your point. Schwartzberg says your final step is to close your presentation with a reminder of your point.
- Restate your point to give your audience a takeaway message and signal the end of your presentation.
- Give your audience a moment to absorb and react. Don’t muddle or weaken your final message by immediately jumping to “what’s coming up next” or directions to the reception area.
Tips for Making Your Point in Different Scenarios
You’ve learned how to identify, craft, and pitch your point powerfully. Now we’ll examine Schwartzberg’s tips for maximizing your impact in various scenarios in public presentations and the workplace.
Whether you’re delivering a speech, sitting on a conference panel, or presenting a PowerPoint, here is how Schwartzberg recommends you make your point.
Scenario 1: Speeches
- Prepare for your speech by practicing it in your full voice.
- When possible, refer to bullet point notes rather than reading a full speech (the more scripted you are, the less focused you’ll be on your audience).
- State your point at the top of your speech.
- Make sure your stories illustrate your point (irrelevant stories distract your audience by creating mental work for them).
Scenario 2: Conference Panels
- Enter the panel prepared to present your key points and have evidence to support them.
- Respond directly to the person who asks you a question (moderator, panelist, or audience member), using their name when possible.
- If you can’t make your point early on, find your way into the discussion using transition sentences. For example: “I’d like to return to a point that Althea just made….”
- Positively engage your audience by affirming that their questions are smart and offer actionable takeaways that can help them.
- If someone attacks you, calmly reiterate your point and explain its merit. Don’t be reactive or aggressive.
- Throughout the event, be mindful of your body language and reactions, which others in the room are watching.
Scenario 3: PowerPoint
- Take command of your technology and the room by standing front and center. Don’t let your technology upstage you by sitting in the audience and reading your slides.
- Only use slides that explicitly support your point and state their relevance.
- Use no more than five bullet points on a slide and no more than five words per line.
- Make sure your print and graphics are visible throughout the room.
In the Workplace
The workplace offers many opportunities to make your point. Whether you’re conducting a staff meeting, giving a performance review, communicating with staff, or simply writing an email, here is Schwartzberg’s advice for effectively presenting your point.
Scenario 1: Conducting Staff Meetings
- Enter knowing the point you want to make.
- Raise your voice, insert pauses, and use the fewest words possible to convey your message.
- Recommend the next steps, directions, and outcomes you’d like to see.
Scenario 2: Giving Performance Reviews
- Begin with a clear point you’d like to make about a company goal.
- Provide examples of how your employee’s work has helped or hindered your company’s ability to reach that goal.
- Recommend strategies your employee can use to improve their performance.
Scenario 3: Executive Communications With Staff
- Immediately state your point using active and specific language.
- Keep it brief so staff can focus on your message then get back to work.
- Wrap it up with a hopeful vision for the future and an expression of gratitude to staff.
Scenario 4: Writing Emails
- Put your point in the subject line.
- Use bullet points where possible in the body of your email. Limit your paragraph length to three sentences or fewer.
- If you raise problems, offer solutions.
- Before you wrap up, pitch your point one last time and recommend ways to move forward.
- Check your facts, spelling, and grammar before you hit send.
(Shortform note: To make sure your point doesn’t get lost over a series of emails, encourage staff and other recipients to stick to one email thread per topic, rather than starting a new email chain each time someone has a new idea they want to share on the subject. This keeps everyone on the same page.)
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Here's what you'll find in our full Get to the Point! summary:
- How anyone can make a point that leads to action or change
- Steps to identify, craft, and communicate your point
- How to argue your point in different scenarios