Clear Comm Consulting

Coming up with that PERFECT sound bite

Jun 1, 2005

“It’s the economy, stupid.” “I’m a compassionate conservative.” “Ask not what your country can do for you.” “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

These are some famous quotes from the last 50 years, but what does it take for a group of words to really stand out to those who hear them? And what can we all learn from this process to come up with the PERFECT sound bite to get our point across? Here are some ways to make sure your message sticks.

First and foremost, brevity counts! If you have to explain your key point in paragraphs instead of a sentence, think again. While the details may indeed take some time to understand, there should be a short group of words that get to the essence of your point.

Second, what picture do you want to appear in the listener’s head? If there is one thing that comes to mind for the listener when you speak your key sound bite, you are a lot closer to being successful.

Also, use words that relate to everyone. Recently George Steinbrenner was trying to downplay his ‘tough guy’ image in an interview. The first quote that appeared in the article was this: “I’m really 95 percent Mr. Rogers and only 5 percent Oscar the Grouch.” Even if you have a hard time believing it (your words have to have credibility with your audience) you have to give George points for vivid imagery.

Finally, some perspective for you to consider. While it may seem calculating or cold to come up with the PERECT way of saying your key point, if it’s important, then it’s worth it. Your audience often has other things on their mind and you have to break through that clutter and grab them by the brain!

Also, just because you’ve come up with the PERFECT sound bite, that doesn’t mean you’ll reach your audience. It’s HOW you say it that plays the biggest roll in your success as a communicator. Think of the passion used by President Kennedy in his inaugural address … all you have to hear are the words, “Ask not …” and you remember what follows. Or if you hear, “I have a dream today …” you know what Dr. King said next. If either of those men had delivered those lines without belief and conviction, no one would remember their words today.

ClearComm Note: If you are interested in some great, fun summer reading on this very topic, read “Why business people speak like idiots.” Written by Brian Fugere, Chelsea Hardaway and Jon Warshawsky, it’s a terrific, entertaining read designed to help business people cut through the double-speak junk and get to the point! Happy summer reading!

Cary Pfeffer is the founder of ClearComm Consulting,, a Phoenix, AZ-based communications consulting firm which is helping people tell their story. He works with clients to make the most of their media and live audience communication. Email him at: [email protected]

Follow along with Cary on Twitter @CaryPfeffer

Advice on How to Connect in Business