In the movie “City Slickers,” Jack Palance’s character Curly reveals the secret of life. He holds up his index finger and tells Mitch (played by Billy Crystal) that it’s “one thing.” Confused and intrigued, Mitch asks what is the one important thing in order to find his life’s purpose? Curly’s succinct answer: That’s for you to figure out.
This simple dialogue also underscores the secret to an effective presentation. Before you start writing your presentation, think of Curly and ask yourself: What is the one key takeaway that you want to make sure your audience learns, understands or does based on what you share? Your answer will bring focus for you as the presenter – as you develop your key messages and supporting stories – and it will bring clarity for your audience.
While there may be a variety of points you need to cover in your presentation, there should be one compelling purpose – maybe it’s how and why team members can deliver exceptional customer service, or perhaps it’s reassurance to shareholders about the company’s direction. Listen to any TED Talk, and you’ll usually discern one clear takeaway. It may even be explicitly stated – e.g., “the one thing to remember is …”
In addition to the “City Slickers” test, here’s another technique. David Belasco was an American theatrical producer and playwright who said the core idea for every successful play could be written as a simple sentence on the back of a business card. It’s easy to try. Can you summarize the essence of your presentation and write it on the back of a business card? If the task seems impossible, then you may want to rethink your “one thing.”