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Summarising your ideas

In this video, Dave and Hélène introduce the idea of effective summaries, from attention-grabbing newspaper headlines, movie trailers, or manifestos
Less is more. To get your ideas out there, being shared, developed and improved on, you need a good summary. We rarely get a chance to pitch our ideas at length. Most people only volunteer their interest briefly, unless they’re really engaged, and taking hostages solely for the purpose of having them listen to your ideas, is at best impolite and at worst illegal. People get bored, they’re busy, easily distracted, they’ve got things on their own mind. So you have to be engaging, interesting and quick. If you get them hooked quickly, they’ll listen for longer. They’ll also remember your message and are more likely to do something about it.
Summaries can take a variety of different forms and formats, but a good one to think about is the film trailer. Its sole purpose is to get
the audience wanting to see more and that’s what a good idea summary should do: it should grab the audience and leave them wanting more. Don’t be too enigmatic, but don’t say too much. But film trailers are just one way to summarise. We can also talk about newspaper headlines, political or artistic manifestos and commercial slogans as alternative forms of summary. Consider these lines taken from the manifesto of The Futurists, the art movement founded in 1909. ‘We intend to sing the love of danger, the habit of energy and fearlessness. Courage, audacity, and revolt will be our essential elements of our poetry. Up to now, literature has exalted a pensive immobility, ecstasy and sleep.
We intend to exalt aggressive action, a feverish insomnia, the racer’s stride, the mortal leap, the punch and the slap.’ I think that conjures up a pretty strong picture. The language is really evocative and it gets to the point of their art quickly and boldly. For a summary of an art movement, it’s really snappy. Or how about a company slogan you’ll almost certainly have heard? ‘There are some things money can’t buy, for everything else, there’s MasterCard.’ Again, you get to the point quickly and powerfully with a strong understanding of what it might be and do. However, I want to pick up on one format in particular, the elevator pitch.
The term arises from the situation in which you’re trying to pitch an idea in a company but nobody ever wants to listen, or has the power to act on it. But, one day, you happen to get in the lift or elevator with the Chief Executive and they’re trapped in there, with you, for several floors, so you pitch your idea whilst they’re trapped with you. Hopefully, you can just say enough for them to say, ‘that sounds interesting, book to see me for longer, I want to hear more’.
So what are the secrets of a snappy idea summary? You’ve got to say who you are, you’ve got to say what it is, you’ve got say who it’s for, and you’ve got to say what it does. ‘Hi, I’m Dave. This is an online course for anyone who wants to have ideas and shape the world. It’s online, it’s free and it’s four weeks long. Do you want to hear more?’ ‘Yeah, do you want to come and see me in my office later?’

Being able to summarise your ideas in a short, snappy way will help you grab people’s attention. If you can’t explain your idea concisely, you’ll find it hard to convince people it’s a good idea.

Here, Dave and Hélène introduce the idea of effective summaries, from attention-grabbing newspaper headlines, to movie trailers, to manifestos to company slogans.

Think about one of the ideas you have been discussing so far on this course:

  • Could you come up with a short, engaging summary or pitch for it?
  • If not, why is it difficult to do?
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