How do you stay on message when you’re distracted?

It happens to all of us. You’re in a meeting, and the time to make your point is coming soon. You’ve made your Message Map and feel prepared.

And then you see a text message on your phone, a bug on the meeting room floor, or an executive in running shorts out the window, who happens to be spitting on the sidewalk (this one happened to me). How on earth do you stay on message when you’re now distracted?

The ability to stay on message is crucial for effective communication, productivity, and achieving your goals. Here are 4 tips to help you stay on message and avoid getting distracted.

Make a Message Map to achieve your goals

It’s clear that it’s best to make a Message Map for large projects, such as giving a presentation or participating in a news media interview. Did you know that a Message Map can also help you with smaller tasks, such as giving your point of view in a key meeting or simply to a manager or colleague?

The Message Map doesn’t have to be large, just your home message (what’s in it for your audience) supported by 3 reasons to believe that message. A Message Map helps you clearly define what you want to achieve in a way that states what’s in it for your audience – so your message resonates with them versus being about what you want.

Making and memorizing your short map can help you stay on message if you get distracted during a meeting or conversation.

Keep your Message Map handy

Once you make your Message Map, make sure you can get to it easily. I store my Message Maps on my laptop and on my phone. Often, I even print them and tack them on the wall in front of me so I can see them during online meetings. Even a sticky note in your notebook can help.

Having your Message Map handy enables you to quickly glance at it to help you stay on message if you get distracted.

Eliminate external distractions to stay on message

We all know we should silence our mobile phones and laptops in meetings and presentations. Remembering to actually do it is another story. But the sooner you get into the habit of doing so, the fewer distractions you will have – making it easier to stay on message.

Silence devices before meetings to avoid distractions and stay on message.

Beeping devices are only one form of external distraction. Having a dedicated workspace free of distractions can help.

Try to become aware of what distracts you most often. For example, I shut my office door during meetings to keep my cats out, because I know they will distract me if they are in my office.

Listen actively

Listening actively takes work. It can be easy for your mind to wander during a conversation or meeting. Practicing active listening helps you stay on message because you can tailor your next comment to the person you’re listening to, which increases your chances of staying on message and getting that message heard.

Here are 10 tips for active listening that can help you in all areas of your life.

It can be tough to stay on message in a distracting world. Making and using a Message Map, eliminating external distractions, and listening actively can help.

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