What are the 3 Elements That Make Your Report Stand Out?
When your client picks up your report, can you guarantee they'll read it from start to finish?
No matter how good the content, there are precise elements that cause a client to completely consume the report.
This episode delves into three of the most important elements that makes your report stand out—and more importantly—get read.
In this episode Sean talks about
Part 1: What makes a report powerful?
Part 2: What are tiny increments?
Part 3: How to empower your reader
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“This transcript hasn’t been checked for typos, so you may well find some. If you do, let us know and we’ll be sure to fix them.”
Back in the year 2003 I wrote an article where you just had to take three steps to write a great headline. You could test the headline and you could find out in minutes that it worked for you, and it also got the attention of your customers. I wasn't prepared for how popular that article would be. As we were looking at the statistics of the Psychotactics site, we saw that the article got picked up over and over again. Then we decided, let's make this a report. Surprisingly, when I took that same article, which was just about 800 words, and I put it into a PDF and put some graphics and an introduction and some cartoons, it became close to a ten-page book. That is the headline report.
This is the interesting part.
The report was nothing more than an article. Can we all do the same? Can we just write an 800-word article, put it in a report, and make it powerful? Not quite. You have to understand why the report works. We're going to break up that headline report here today on this podcast. You'll see for yourself, there are three elements that make it work. Let's explore those three elements.
What makes the report so powerful?
The key factor is not the elements but the overall concept. The overall concept is one of empowerment. We are so hung up on the concept of information that we forget what we really have to do as teachers. As teachers we have to empower. We know we've done our job correctly when the client is able to do exactly what we're doing, and possibly even better. Frankly, when I was writing the headline report I wasn't thinking of this. I wasn't thinking of empowerment. I wasn't thinking of the elements. But when you deconstruct the report you can see there are three very specific elements that make it that empowerment tool. The first of the elements is tiny increments. The second is the length. The third are the examples in the report. Let's explore each one systematically. Let's start off with the first one, which is the tiny increments.
What are tiny increments?
About a month ago I got myself some recording hardware. It has all these buttons and it's very hard to figure out which button to press and when to press it. Of course you don't want to look at the manual because that's really badly written. Maybe you go online like I did and you go to YouTube. There are lots of tutorials on how to use it, but there is all this unboxing and then something else and something else. 35 minutes later, you have no clue what you're supposed to do. Then I found a video that was only three minutes long. The video only covered turning on the device. Now, it was three minutes long. How much can you learn about turning on a device? It's a little switch. But it was so cool. I could actually do it. It was a tiny increment.
You don't have to put in a ton of information for people to be impressed.
You have to empower. At the end of the video, what could I do? I could turn on the device. So I go to the next video. In the next video, they cover a little bit again. This is the concept of tiny increments. When we're teaching, we don't understand that the client doesn't get what we're saying. Let's say you've come to one of the Psychotactics workshops and we're doing an experiment. We're saying we're going to take steps now. I say, “Okay, let's take a step.” Then you watch the people in the room. What do they do? Almost everyone will take a step forward, but someone will take a step to the left, or someone will take a step to the right, or someone will take a step back. Now we have all these permutations where people are going off-tangent. If they just take one step, they just make one mistake, you can pull them back and then say, “What I meant was take a step to the left.” Now the whole group can go one step back, one step to the left, and now we're on target.
When you have something that has a very tiny increment, the customer can only make a very small mistake.
You can spot the mistake and pull them back, or you can show them that mistake in your report and pull them back. When you have this wealth of information, all these buttons to press and all these things to do all at once, suddenly the customer is lost. When they're lost, they're intimidated, and intimidation doesn't create a safe zone, and when you don't create a safe zone then of course you don't get empowerment.
The first factor you have to look at when you look at the headline report is this concept of tiny increments.
You only have to take a very tiny step to get from point A to point B. When you've taken that step, you can go from point B to point C. This is what struck me when I stepped into an Apple store many years ago. It's one of the reasons why I bought an Apple even though I'd been using a PC for ages. When I got into the store, I just had to do one thing. That one thing led to the next thing, and that next thing led to the next thing. This is very cool. You see it on the iPad where you just have to press a little button, and that one thing leads to the next thing. This is the concept of tiny increments. You see this in the headline report. It's what you've got to do in your report: just one little step.
Now this takes us to the second one, which is the concept of length.
Length really helps in empowerment. Every time I speak to someone about this podcast, I will say, “The podcast is only about 15 to 20 minutes long.” But what if were to say, “It's only two to three hours long'? There would be a very clear difference. When you say 15 to 20 minutes long people think, “I could go for a little walk and I could listen to the podcast.” This principle of length is critical, especially when a customer doesn't know you that well and you have to get your message across without going crazy on them. It has helped me when I was trying to work out that audio hardware. I just had to deal with three minutes, and then after that the next three minutes, and then the next three minutes. Every one of those three-minute capsules, they empowered me. They moved me forward. The headline report does this in a really fascinating way. It moves youforward. Within ten pages, you're done. Now the question arises: Is that it? Is that all you could write about headlines? No, of course not. You could write 300 pages or 500 pages. There is a wealth of information in the world of headlines. But do you have to put in the report?
The core of empowerment is simply one of length.
When there is not too much of it, someone is able to consume it. Once they're able to consume it, you have empowered them. You know that because you can get them to teach you what you've just taught them and they will do that spectacularly well. We take the first concept, which is tiny increments, and we take the second concept, which is length, and that leaves us with just the third one.
What is the third concept?
The third concept is simply one of examples and case studies. When you listen to this podcast, you got a whole bunch of examples about the recording device and how I had to fiddle with it. You also got the example of how the iPad worked, and of course my visit to the Apple store for the first time in 2008. Those were examples. Why were those examples there? They weren't just random stuff. For one thing, the example lowers that intimidation factor.
Immediately you're taken on a little side journey, a little detour.
That helps you to focus on the idea, but it also helps you understand the concept in greater detail. When you look at the headline report you'll find that there is an example of how the headline is being built stage by stage. If all you had was a concept of how to write a headline without the example it would be so much more dreary and harder to achieve the same result. As a teacher, that's your goal. Your goal is to empower. Examples empower. Case studies empower. Stories empower. Go down that path and put it in your report. Whether you're reading The Brain Audit, or Pricing,or any book, you will find that we use this concept. That's what clients read and go, “Wow, I should delve more into this stuff.” The biggest problem that we have is we know too much. We try to put all that too much into our reports, into our books, into our presentations. Does it empower? It's easy to give information. A lot of people are giving a lot of information. It's all stuff coming at you left, right, and center, and you don't know where to go. Your client doesn't know where to go either.
Have this little guiding light of empowerment and everything changes.
We started out with a report. We started out with just a little article, but that article had steps, and it went from one step to another to another. When it got into the report stage it was clearer because of the graphics, because of the layout. That's how you should go about writing your report. Think about empowerment and think about the three things that we've covered today. The first thing that we covered today was tiny increments. Remember that even if you say take one step, people can steps in all directions, show you take very tiny steps. The second thing is one of length. A three-hour podcast, a 300-page report, very interesting but no one's going to read it. You want to keep it simple. You want to keep it within ten or 12 pages. Finally, you want to reduce that intimidation factor. It's very hard to understand the new concept. Having examples, having stories, having case studies, this really makes it easier for me to figure out what you're saying.
Which brings us to the end of this podcast. What is the one thing that you can do?
I think the one thing that you should do is to just boil it down to three things. You've seen how this podcast just covers three elements. If I wanted to write a book on how to create a great report, I could write 200 pages. But this podcast, it's a report. It's just got three points, three simple points, and you've been empowered. I think you should do the same. Just jot down three points. I know there are 700 points on the topic. Just focus on three and you'll have a report that someone actually consumes. Now isn't that a novel idea?
What have we been doing in the past six weeks or so?
If you've been following this podcast, you know that we went off to Washington D.C. to have the information products workshop. It's just 25-30 people in a room. Everyone gets to know each other. Everyone works with each other. It's an amazing event. We don't do the Psychotactics workshops very often, so if you ever get a chance to get to a Psychotactics workshop, you should come. It's empowerment at its very best. You'll see it at the workshop. From there we flew to Denver and I presented at the Opera House in Denver and lost my voice, got it back, struggled through the whole episode. My wife gave me an eight on ten. She has given me a -2 in the past, so I think I did a pretty good job. That comes down to practice and getting all your act together.
During the event, some things went wrong for speakers.
The video didn't show up at the right time, or it didn't sync with the audio. The way to solve this problem is to do all of the groundwork. I was there a few days in advance, getting over the tiredness factor, making sure that I knew the length of the stage, looking for any light distractions. Because when you're on a stage a lot of lights hit you, especially on a stage of that size. You need to know where you need to stop before light hits you in the face and you can't see a thing. You also need to speak to the audio and the video people, because they recommended stuff to me that ensured our whole presentation was absolutely flawless. There's a lot of background stuff that you have to do, and that marks you out as a professional. I was completely hampered on stage there. I was sniffling and I could barely speak, but that eight on ten, that was because of all the groundwork that went before. As much as I would have liked to get full marks from my wife, at least I was able to struggle to an eight. You know it goes well because when you step out of the auditorium, people come up to you and go, “I'm going to make this fix today. I'm going to make this change today.” You have empowered them.
Once we finished with all of the work and the presentations, we went on to Sardinia.
We had a great time. Sardinia is this big island off Italy. You've probably heard of Sicily. If you look to the left, there is Sardinia. The food is absolutely stunning. We go on vacations because of the food. We really don't care that much about the monuments. The food has to be good. We gorged a lot and we walked a lot of slopes. That's how we keep our weight in check. Three weeks in Sardinia, a stopover in San Francisco, and now we're back in New Zealand. I have to admit it's been hard getting back to work, even though it's been a week. This nasty cough that started in Washington D.C. followed me through Denver, through Sardinia, through San Francisco. It's okay now but it's been a long run. Nonetheless, it was worth doing the info products course in Washington D.C..