"We Begin Tonight with What's Boring."


Imagine Lester Holt starting the NBC Nightly News with “We begin tonight by telling you about me. I was born in Elmira, New York…”

Once the shock of his unbridled narcissism wore off, we’d hear “click,” “click,” “click” across the country, as viewers registered disapproval with their remote controls.

TV newsrooms have spent decades and billions of dollars researching how to deliver important information in a format that is concise and compelling. They know it’s NOT by starting with what’s boring or by talking first about themselves.

For the business presenter, the evening news offers some great lessons on how to verbally communicate information, make key details stick, and keep audiences engaged from start to finish.

1) Forget chronology and lead with what’s new. In other words, don’t begin with deep background about yourself, your company or your industry---or a chronological tale of how the problem came to be. Get to the good stuff. If major news breaks at 4:30, that’s usually the lead on the 5:00 news. The important Senate hearing that started at 9:00 will still run, just toward the middle of the newscast. In business presentations, decide what’s new and most interesting and make that your “lead.”

2) Respect the medium. A broadcaster covering the same story as a print reporter will get about 1/20th the words to do her job. She can’t possibly communicate the same volume of information. But rather than bemoaning the limitations of the medium, good TV reporters embrace its advantages, using visuals, sounds, vocal tones, even timing to convey a few key points with lasting effect. (Think of how the nation recalls the first man on the moon, the tumbling of the Berlin Wall or even 9-11.) In business, understand that a live presentation is different than a written report and find ways to exploit those differences to your advantage.

3) Don’t forget sports, weather and the lotto. No matter how big the news day, there always will be some viewers who still want the day’s high temp or the baseball scores. In business, no matter how creative or compelling your presentation, someone in the audience may still want to see an industry standard chart or graph. So go ahead and include that. But keep in mind sports and weather usually get just a few minutes toward the middle or end of the newscast---and lotto numbers run during a break. Concede, if you must, some airtime to what people EXPECT to see. But if you want to engage your audience and make your presentation memorable, do what newscasters do: Focus on what’s UNEXPECTED, what’s most interesting and what’s new.

Christina McKenna