“I’m giving a speech – what should I say?” “I have a team meeting – what should I do?” “I’m planning an offsite – what should be the agenda?” I am reminded of the mystical words of Curly in the movie “City Slickers,” – “It’s about one thing.”
When I was in seminary my professor drilled into our heads that a sermon is about one thing; only one thing. We had to learn the discipline of discovering the overarching theme of a passage and seeing how everything in that passage was about “the one thing.” It was no small challenge to get young seminarians to focus their preaching on one thing – one theme, one central message. They tend to want to tell you everything they know (which is not that much) and as a result become boring babblers. And in that sense they are not that much different from the rest of us.
The difficult thing is to see all that a message could contain and find the overarching theme that gives it one message – makes it about one thing. The presentation should have sub points (good Presbyterians have three) but those sub points should support the one thing your message is about. If a sub point doesn’t fit with the overarching theme then either the sub point doesn’t belong in your message or you need to change the theme of your message.
The same is true for an effective meeting. When you are preparing for a meeting, think about all you want to say and then look at the whole thing and ask, “What is the overall theme here? What is the one thing I want them to walk out knowing?” Is it about our vision? Our mission? Our delivery?” Then ask, “What are the sub points – the various points and issues we want to cover in this meeting?” If there is an agenda item that doesn’t fit with the “one thing” then you should either eliminate that agenda item or change your “one thing” theme. You should be able to ask your team a week after the meeting and have them say, “it was about X, because everything about the meeting revolved around the one thing.”
This principle extends to an off sites, and conferences as well. You should find the one thing you want that time to be about and structure the entire event around that one theme. The various discussion points should be centered around the one thing the time away is focused on. A client recently had an all day meeting with his team around the theme “Making IT personal.” All of the discussion points – delivery, personnel, technology – were around this theme.
The trick here is to “see the whole board.” Step back from the agenda and see the totality of what you are doing and the common theme that links together the entire event. Build your talk, meeting or offsite around the “one thing” you want this to be about – and make sure everyone knows that “one thing” when they leave.
Which all reminds me of Christmas. I’ve been thinking about Christmas as I always do this time of year. I realize that for me, Christmas is really about one thing. The parties, the music, the decorations, the gifts and all the “holiday cheer” are merely sub points to the overarching celebration that God became a man – that the invisible became visible. We take this time to stop and celebrate the birth of the baby that gives new birth. Or in the words of a great song, “what could be stranger than God in a manger?”
May your one thing become the main thing in your work and life this year. Merry Christmas!
1. Can you identify the “one thing” and the sub points in the above newsletter?
2. Think of your last talk, meeting or offsite and ask, “Was it about one thing?” If not then what should the one thing have been?
3. What is the “one thing” your life is about? What are the “sub points” of your life?