what's the Big Idea?

In my last post, I discussed the 3-minute story and the importance of being able to concisely describe what it is you want to communicate (without reliance on your data and/or visuals). Today, we'll cover an even higher level aggregation: the Big Idea.

The Big Idea boils down the "so-what" of your overall communication even further: to a single sentence. This is a concept that Nancy Duarte discusses in her book, Resonate. She says the Big Idea has three components:

  1. It must articulate your unique point of view;
  2. It must convey what's at stake; and
  3. It must be a complete sentence.

In my prior post, I shared the example of a summer learning program on science and what the 3-minute story could sound like. If we condense that even further to the Big Idea, it might be:

The pilot summer learning program aimed at improving students' perception of science was successful and, because of the success, we recommend continuing to offer it going forward; please approve our budget for this program.

Bam. It's clear to your audience what they need to know and what you are asking of them. Some people think being verbose helps convince an audience of your knowledge on a subject, but this often has the opposite effect. It's difficult to be concise, but when you master it, it can work as evidence to your audience that you really know what you're talking about, because you know what's not essential and can boil your message down to its core.

In my experience, the entire resulting communication is better when the person delivering it has taken the time to be really clear on and made sure they can articulate the Big Idea. Note that if your communication medium is slides, each slide should have a clear Big Idea. Then there should also be an overarching Big Idea for the overall communication.

Stay tuned for the next post in this series on storyboarding.