Communications need structure so speakers know where they are going and audience members know where they are being taken. Unlike a set script, a structure is a framework that allows for more spontaneous delivery, which is required to make an emotional connection with the audience. The Decker grid provides that structure, with the cornerstones acting as the message’s foundation. The next steps in applying the grid are creating, clustering, and composing.
- Resist the temptation to edit (just let ideas flow).
- Set a specific amount of time for brainstorming (stop when the time is up).
The purpose of brainstorming is to come up with ideas that support and convince the audience of the value and legitimacy of what has been presented in the cornerstone. Things to think about while generating these ideas include key insights, trends, success stories, opportunities, challenges, and solutions.
Once brainstorming is complete, the next step is clustering, or grouping the ideas by category. After the sticky notes have been clustered, the key idea in each group should be identified and labeled as a key point. Supporting points in the cluster should be laid out on the grid as subpoints.
The final step is composing, or editing and refining the final message. The Decker grid adheres to the principle of telling audience members ahead of time what will be shared, sharing it, and then telling them again.
The Decker grid applies the rule of threes: the notion that presenting anything in a group of three is the best way to make sure it is subconsciously recognized as a pattern and consequently internalized and remembered. For that reason, it is best to create messages that only have three key points. Additionally, when composing the final message it is important to “hook” audience members immediately with a powerful opening that gives them a reason to listen, and to end with a “bang” to ensure the message is memorable. The authors recommend integrating SHARPs throughout the presentation as a way to keep the audience engaged.
When it is time to present, the grid should be in front of the presenter as a guide, not a document to be read verbatim. The idea is for the grid to prompt a natural delivery that allows for real-time responsiveness.