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Michael Long is a speechwriter, author, educator, and award-winning screenwriter and playwright.

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"It's Important" Is Not Enough
People don't read your stuff because it's important.
You have to win their interest.


For many years, I would go to my doctor and he would tell me to lose weight. "If you don't," he'd say, "you'll lose years off your life."

I can't think of a more important message than that. Can you?

Yet I spent a decade hearing that important information... and doing nothing about it.
 
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When you write a speech, an essay, a letter, a proposal, or anything else, don't think like my doctor did -- don't assume that the importance of the information is enough to get somebody to do something.

Yet you may be thinking that this doesn't apply to you.
 
They work for me, so they’ll listen.
 
Their job depends on it, so they’ll figure it out.
 
These are smart folks. They’ll get it.

 
If only any of this worked. People don’t read or listen just because something is important. We pay attention because we are compelled to do so by the person who provides the words.

Over and over, we see principals pour out critical information to key influencers to no effect. Then everybody huddles up back at the office to figure out how to say the same thing in other words.
 
But most of the time, the problem isn’t the message. It’s the egocentric belief that simply pouring it in people’s ears is enough. You need drama, rhetoric, example, character, color, plot, persuasion, humor, insight, wit, mystery -- the things that affect our emotions, not just our intellect.
 
Keep reminding yourself: People don't listen just because something is important.

 
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There is no proposition so grave, no topic so serious, no event so important, and no speaker so gifted that unadorned material will have significant impact. Period.
 
Think of it this way: ten minutes into most talks and the audience is squirming, yet 90 minutes into a good movie and the audience feels they’ve barely sat down. Why is that? Because successful filmmakers make it a priority to be compelling.
 
Listening is hard. Show a little sympathy for the audience. Make listening easy.

 

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