by Leon Rosenshein

The 3 Tells

I'm not talking about how to tell when the person across the poker table from you is bluffing. I'm talking about how you can effectively get your point across in a limited amount of time. You've got good ideas. Knowing how to get your point across, whether it's formal with a slide deck or a quick hallway conversation, makes it much more likely that those good ideas will become realities. And it starts with the three tells:

  1. Tell them what you're going to tell them and why they care
  2. Tell them
  3. Tell them what you told them and why it's important

That doesn't mean start every presentation with an agenda slide and end with a conclusion slide, both of which you read verbatim, although that's not a bad place to start. It means make sure you know and share the destination up front. And not just the destination, but why your audience wants to get there. Call it a hook or a vision, or just "What's in it for them". Make sure they understand why they should care about what you're saying.

Then you tell them. Tell them what they need to know. You know the subject. It's important to you. Let that enthusiasm show. But, don't get carried away. Make sure you stay at the right level. Stay on message. Knowing what not to say is as important as knowing what to say. That doesn't mean glossing over problems, or that you don't need to know the details. Think of common questions and have the answer available, but wait for someone to let you know they're needed before you provide them.

It's like teaching physics. You use the appropriate level for your students. In middle school F=MA, and s = ½ at^2. Simple. Straightforward. Throw a baseball straight up at X ft/s. How high does it go? When does it get back to your hand? In high school you might mention air resistance. In college you throw things farther and faster. The curvature of the earth matters. There's friction, and gravity becomes a function of position. Suddenly you're talking about satellites in orbit. Relativistic effects and the changing shape of the Earth and the atmosphere become important. All those effects are real and important, but you don't want to generalize too much or get lost in the weeds. Freshman college physics should include friction, probably doesn't need relativistic effects.

Finally, close it out. Go back to the high points and tie them in to why the audience cares. Don't repeat all the details or the related anecdotes. Don't rabbit hole. Stick to your hook/vision and how it can help your audience in whatever it is you're talking about. Make sure they know why everything you just say is important to them.

So there you have it. The three tells and how using them can help you get your point across and your ideas implemented. All by telling them what you're going to tell them, telling them, and finally, telling them what you told them.

See what I did there?