How to Get Your Point Across at Work & in Speeches

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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Are you wondering how to get your point across? Where should your communication skills shine?

Whether it’s for public presentations or just a casual conversation, getting your point across can be nerve-wracking if you don’t know how to communicate. Luckily, Joel Schwartzberg’s book Get to the Point! has tips for maximizing your impact in various scenarios.

Let’s look at the different scenarios where you need to learn how to get your point across.

Public Presentations 

Whether you’re delivering a speech, sitting on a conference panel, or presenting a PowerPoint, here is how Schwartzberg recommends how to get your point across.

Scenario 1: Speeches

  1. Prepare for your speech by practicing it in your full voice. 
  2. 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).
  3. State your point at the top of your speech. 
  4. Make sure your stories illustrate your point (irrelevant stories distract your audience by creating mental work for them).

(Shortform note: In Talk Like Ted, Carmine Gallo offers additional strategies to grab your audience’s attention and make your point: Repackage well-worn ideas so they feel fresh, incorporate shocking moments, and build mystery and suspense into the stories you tell.)

Scenario 2: Conference Panels 

  1. Enter the panel prepared to present your key points and have evidence to support them.
  2. Respond directly to the person who asks you a question (moderator, panelist, or audience member), using their name when possible.
  3. 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….” 
  4. Positively engage your audience by affirming that the questions they ask are smart and offer actionable takeaways that can help them.
  5. If someone attacks you, calmly reiterate your point and explain its merit. Don’t be reactive or aggressive.
  6. Throughout the event, be mindful of your body language and reactions, which others in the room are watching.

(Shortform note: If you want to stand out as a panelist and make sure your message gets heard, ask the event organizer if you can speak second in the lineup (not first) so latecomers hear your presentation, and engage your audience by asking questions, such as: “By a show of hands, how many people in this room [fill in the blank]?”)

Scenario 3: PowerPoint

  1. 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.  
  2. Only use slides that explicitly support your point and state their relevance. 
  3. Use no more than five bullet points on a slide and no more than five words per line.
  4. Make sure your print and graphics are visible throughout the room.

(Shortform note: You can also strengthen your point by making sure that the message you’re trying to convey to your audience has a clear beginning, middle, and end.)

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

  1. Enter knowing the point you want to make.
  2. Raise your voice, insert pauses, and use the fewest words possible to convey your message.
  3. Recommend next steps, directions, and outcomes you’d like to see. 

(Shortform note: Another way to make sure your message resonates with staff is to ask employees ahead of time what they’d like to discuss, and why, to help shape your agenda.)  

Scenario 2: Giving Performance Reviews

  1. Begin with a clear point you’d like to make about a company goal.
  2. Provide examples of how your employee’s work has helped or hindered your company’s ability to reach that goal.
  3. Recommend strategies your employee can use to improve their performance. 

(Shortform note: In The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz argues that in addition to being clear and precise with employees about what they’re doing that’s working or not, make sure to use a tone that doesn’t demean or demoralize them. A tone of respect increases the likelihood that they’ll receive your message.)

Scenario 3: Executive Communications With Staff 

  1. Immediately state your point using active and specific language.
  2. Keep it brief so staff can focus on your message then get back to work.
  3. Wrap it up with a hopeful vision for the future and an expression of gratitude to staff.

(Shortform note: It’s easy to implement these strategies under the best of circumstances, but how can you communicate effectively with staff in a time of crisis? A key tip is to provide information regularly, in a timely manner, and in locations where employees are most likely to see it, rather than waiting until you have all the answers.)

Scenario 4: Writing Emails

  1. Put your point in the subject line.
  2. Use bullet points where possible in the body of your email. Limit your paragraph length to three sentences or fewer.
  3. If you raise problems, offer solutions. 
  4. Before you wrap up, pitch your point one last time and recommend ways to move forward.
  5. 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.)

How to Get Your Point Across at Work & in Speeches

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Joel Schwartzberg's "Get to the Point!" at Shortform.

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

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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