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High Impact Communication Part 2 of 3: Saying it with Sizzle

This is the second of three posts on high-impact communication. Click here for posts one and three!

The Sizzle Makes It Stick

While the substance of what you say is your credibility card, it is the sizzle of your words that makes them stick.

Saying it with sizzle is about using your words and your voice to evoke emotion in your listeners. It is a true, heartfelt expression of the feelings—your feelings—about your message. Consider these two versions of the same story:

The queen died, and then the king died.

The queen died, and then the king died of a broken heart.

While the first version fulfills the substance requirement, the second, which adds the sizzling detail of how the king died, provides insight into the relationship between the king and queen. This emotional insight helps us to form a deeper connection with the story, making it more meaningful and more memorable.

Including emotional detail in the communication piques our imagination, and we become invested in the unfolding story and the storyteller. It makes us want to hear more.

Think of sizzle as the emotional quotient of what you are trying to communicate.

How to Say it With Sizzle

Use the following Self-Others-Situation framework from Lead Positive to craft a leadership message that sizzles.


A “speech act” is defined as communication that is designed to get the listener to do or realize something. Find ways of incorporating speech acts into your message that establish your relationship and strengthen your connection to your audience. What do you want to accomplish? Empower? Empathize? Apologize? Celebrate? Sizzle-oriented speech acts help you create a through-line for what you want to make the listener feel.


What do you want your audience to feel? Uplifted? Enthusiastic? Respected? Relieved?

For substance, I asked you to be sure of your call to action. When it comes to sizzle, be sure to have a clear invitation to feel.

Your invitation to feel will evoke emotions from you as well as from your listeners. What you feel, they will feel too. Remember, emotions are contagious, so you must be fully emotionally engaged in what you are saying.


The situation framework helps you determine how best to engage your listeners at a particular moment in time. Knowing your audience’s frame of mind—uncertain or clear, hesitant or ready, worried or excited, or in the dark or knowledgeable—is essential to selecting the right stories and engagement strategies.

The sizzle of your message must serve the needs of your audience.

Their interests, concerns, aspirations, and well-being must be your paramount focus. You, your emotional tone, the stories you tell, and the images you paint must connect with your listeners’ most ardent hopes and desires.

Brainstorm what your core message will mean from the unique perspectives of each of the different constituencies that make up your audience–managers, employees, sales and marketing, operations, etc.

Engaging in tailored preparation enables you to speak directly to the fears, hopes, and desires of each stakeholder group. Then, divulging personal stories that align with their interests will help each group to trust your positive intentions and efforts to walk in their shoes.

Can you think of any other great leaders whose messages sizzle?

Stay tuned: Next week, I will discuss how to imbue your message with soul, the “why” of your vision and commitment.

Photo by: earl53

Dr. Kathy Cramer

Kathryn D. Cramer, PH.D.
Founder and Managing Partner, The Cramer Institute