My twenty-year-old son volunteered at the Democratic National Convention, and, like savvy sons everywhere, he knew his mother would want a memento. Thanks to Andrew, I now have a stack of signs that were waved as speakers like Michelle Obama and Michael Bloomberg encouraged us all to say, “I’m with her.”
The DNC gave us four days of lengthy speeches. My collection of signs distills into a few short words the big takeaways from those four long days. “Yes we can” Stronger together” “Change maker” and my favorite, “Do the most good”. They convey the optimistic tone and can-do spirit that the Democrats strived for in their convention, albeit in much shorter form than the lengthy speeches. Most importantly, they are far more memorable. Of course, the DNC knew they would be; research backs them up.
Sixty-five percent of people are visual learners. They are unlikely to remember the details of your speech, but they will remember what they saw. Did you look friendly? Did you seem trustworthy? And they will remember the thousands of concise and colorful signs waving across the arena. Whilepolitical speeches are cited in history books, visuals have greater real-time impact on the everyday voter.
You may have heard communications consultants talk about “optics,” the PR buzzword that refers to how something appears to the outside world. It sounds like jargon, one of those phrases we public relations professionals use when we want to seem invaluable. In reality, it is a reminder to put your audience first by helping them absorb information in a way that works for them. Distilling your complex concepts into a few pithy and visual statements shows respect for your audience by putting their needs ahead of yours.
Nonprofit and foundation executives can improve their communications if they start by thinking about how their audiences learn. There still is a place for speeches, lengthy articles and reports, but if you want to make them memorable find a way to make the visuals matter.
I’ve hung my DNC signs on my office walls, and they make me feel inspired and empowered. I’m keep them up after the election as a reminder of the impact of well-chosen – and well-designed — words.