Sue Unerman
Jan 9, 2024

Don't bore us, get to the chorus: say it, say it and say it again

People’s ability to hear what they want to hear is pretty amazing so, if you have something new to pitch, you need to make it simple and repeat it.

Don't bore us, get to the chorus: say it, say it and say it again
First lesson of presenting: say what you’re going to say. Say it. Say what you have just said.
 
I learned this in my first ever presentation training and it is true not only of presentations, but every time that you want to communicate.
 
Got some feedback for a team member? Say what you’re going to say, say it, say what you just said.
 
Pitching for a payrise? Say what you’re going to say, say it, say what you just said.
 
Breaking up with someone? Say what you’re going to say, say it, say what you just said. 
 
Writing an awards entry? Say what you’re going to say, say it, say what you just said.
 
People’s ability to hear what they want to hear is pretty amazing and our brains love to stick to existing patterns of thought so, if you have something new to pitch, you need to make it simple and repeat it. 
 
If you complicate things, then that will allow for misinterpretation.
 
If you hedge around an issue, people might just not hear anything you say.
 
If you assume that they will work out what you mean from your subtle implications, you’re probably wrong.
 
And if you love (as many in adland do) to lead up to a big reveal, don’t count on the fact that people will still be paying any attention at all unless you have given them a really good reason to by – yes, you guessed it – saying what you’re going to say in the first couple of minutes.
 
Our favourite singalong songs demonstrate this beautifully. It doesn’t matter what the artist intended, all people remember is their interpretation of the chorus.
 
The Pogues' and the wonderful Kirsty MacColl's Fairytale of New York from 1987 is a firm favourite. But have you really listened to the lyrics? They aren’t cosy, they aren’t that Christmassy and they aren’t really suitable for a singalong with your nan or your kids.
 
Britain’s favourite Christmas song starts in the drunk tank and goes downhill from there: blessed Shane now “won’t see another one”.
 
Every Step You Take is still popular as a classic wedding song and the Police original from 1983 was, of course, about a stalker. But 40 years later, it’s still hugely popular as a love song.
 
There’s a Bowie favourite used to rouse crowds and boost corporate spirits but, when people hear Heroes, what they hear is just the line “We can be 'heroes'!” What they don’t hear is that the song is actually about a doomed, dysfunctional couple whose dream is that they might be "heroes" (Bowie includes the ironic quote marks, just to make it absolutely clear that they’re not really heroes) just for one day.
 
Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen is played at patriotic gatherings. It's about how badly vets were treated after Vietnam.
 
And the highly hummable Stevie Wonder hit Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours) is less an actual love song and more a dodgy, unbelievable and grovelling apology for bad behaviour.
 
Of course, there are more.
 
And why should the artists who made the hits worry? After all, they may be misunderstood but as my grandmother would have put it, they’re misunderstood “all the way to the bank”.
 
The key point here is that this is more common than you might think, and this is worth remembering every time you begin to compose.
 
Let’s assume that most of our readers aren’t writing hit songs but they are probably writing presentations, scripts for meetings or working out how to sell something.
 
Two crucial points to remember are:
 
1. You need a chorus – something memorable and repeatable.
 
2. No one will remember anything else apart from the chorus.
 
And, as I have said: say what you’re going to say, say it, and say what you have just said.
 
Or, in other words: say the chorus, repeat the chorus, repeat the chorus again.
 

 
Sue Unerman is chief transformation officer at EssenceMediacomX and global head of relevance at EM Creative Futures. 
 
She is also the author of three books: Belonging, the Key to Transforming and Maintaining Diversity, Inclusion and Equality at Work; The Glass Wall, Success Strategies for Women at Work and Businesses that Mean Business; Tell the Truth, Honesty is your Most Powerful Marketing Tool.
Source:
Campaign UK

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