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/Forty-six principles of truth

Forty-six principles of truth

Russia ranks 26th in a recent Edelman Trust Barometer (out of the 26 countries surveyed), which measures people’s trust in their governments and business. One obvious reason is that even a completely true message often looks and sounds like a lie. This is where we step in, to the best of our ability. In order to avoid traps, we abide by these Principles.

General Communication Principles

  1. Formulate your Objective as an answer to three questions: 
    — What are the people that I am talking to supposed to do?
    — Why aren’t they doing it? (What problem am I addressing? What am I trying to deal with?)
    — Why is it important for me personally?
    The objective is not to “talk”.
  2. Formulate the key talking point as an answer to the question about the problem, and have no more than three secondary points. Lose the rest.

Points 1 and 2 make 70% of a successful message.

  1. Lose all arguments and facts that have nothing to do with making your points.
  2. Lose all arguments and facts that the core audience already knows of.
  3. Pick the most impressive strongest arguments. Avoid the “hyper-argument” trap.
  4. Evidence can be visual (pictures) and rational (stories, figures, facts). There is no “emotional” evidence
  5. Nevertheless, emotions are instrumental for capturing and keeping the attention of your listeners and helping them “own” the information.
  6. Use storytelling (an original, exciting, dramatic, and real story that makes your point).
  7. Use visualizations of all available data, avoid cherry picking and data smoothing.
  8. Use the “from problem to solution” dramatic scheme. Outline the problem before describing the solution.
  9. Use metaphors to clarify ideas and draw attention, not to make your points. A metaphor must be brief.
  10. Make your message follow a dramatic line. Start with an exciting story, fact or event that illustrate the problem. End with formulating the key point.
  11. Avoid platitudes when praising yourself! Just cross them all out (your rivals can always use the same clichés to praise themselves).
  12. Forget officialese (do not split the infinitive; avoid using many of-phrases in a row; do not overcomplicate things, etc.). Use “we did it!” instead of “it was done. Use “we are building” instead of “the construction is in progress”.
  13. Avoid long adverbial clauses (“while acknowledging the need for change…,” “having accumulated a vast experience in...”).
  14. Use concrete instead of abstract, use the “tangible”.
  15. Use no more than two quotes and metaphors per message.

Public Speeches

  1. When preparing for a speech, make it 15% shorter than the time limit.
  2. Strengthen your acting skills, literally. Learn to be sincere and engaging.
  3. Make pauses to see whether your listeners follow you.
  4. Keep an eye contact to see whether your listeners follow you.
  5. Think about the “want” — this is what you want from your audience. Do not let this “want” fade until the end of your speech.
  6. Think of a simple, brief and catchy speech title.


  1. Do not pass an actor off as a staff member! And even more so, do not make it look like he is the CEO.
  2. If you use an actor as a host (which you can do), make sure he knows the company and has feelings about it.
  3. Make sure the voice–over sounds as if it tells a story, rather than reads an ad. TV reporters are often better than professional actors.
  4. Avoid monotony. Use varied tempos and rhythms, visual means and sound series.
  5. Use sound when showing graphics.
  6. When shooting films, avoid platitudes; always shoot a “conflict” — something different and unexpected. Love your close-ups.
  7. Use unconventional footage to provide visual evidence and keep your viewers’ attention: use copters, timelapse, thermovision cameras, Go Pro cams, hi motion and slow motion filming).
  8. Do not make your own editing rules (unless you are a genius).
  9. Interviews and comments must be unprepared, with deliberation and pauses, rather than read from notes. This is especially important for top managers.
  10. The interviewer’s interest in the interviewee must be sincere, and he must only ask questions to which he does not know the answers (if he already known everything, he should ask about details).
  11. Get rid of all generalizations (see Principle 13).
  12. Music is important! It is the emotional moderator rather than background.


  1. Abide by the “attention management” principle — you must always be aware what your viewer looks at and what “story” sounds in his head. Draw his attention to what matters, lose everything that does not.
  2. Make your narrative linear. At any given moment, there should be one important point on the screen — a landscape, chart or text — but not a mixture of all. Draw them all in a sequence.
  3. Use a tempo and rhythm pattern — make pauses before making points.
  4. Do not display captions or charts longer than required.
  5. Comply with the chart-making rules (see “Say it with Charts” by Gene Zelazny).
  6. Figures do not speak for themselves. Draw comparisons.
  7. Music must emphasize everything that happens on the screen.
  8. If you use voice–over, it should complement and explain everything that happens on the screen.
  9. There can be excellent videos with no voice–over.

Most importantly!

  1. Making an effective message is a challenge with an average time ratio of 1 to 100, meaning that it takes 100 minutes of preparations to produce one minute of a good message.
  2. Do not lie.

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