Microspeak: Take-away


At Microsoft, the take-away is the essential message of a presentation or the conclusion that you are expected to draw from a situation. It is something you are expected to remember when the whole thing is over, a piece of information you take away with you as you leave the room.

XYZ demo take away (title of a document)

The preferred intensifier is key, and you probably see it attached to the phrase take-away more often than not. This example comes from a presentation on the results of a user study:

Results: XYZ Tough to Use

  • ...
  • Key take-away:
    • Migration to XYZ will be difficult
    • Need to show value of using the power of DEF

In fact, every single slide in this presentation had a bullet point at the bottom called Key take-away. (And, as you may have noticed, the heading is the singular take-away even though multiple take-aways were listed.)

Another use of the term take-away follows in the same spirit as the "essential message" usage, but the idea of "taking away" is taken literally: A take-away is a small information card that sales and marketing people give to potential customers. Think of it as the business card for a service rather than for a person.

[Raymond is currently away; this message was pre-recorded.]

Comments (22)
  1. asdbsd says:

    Obligatory XYZ bashing:

    Results: XYZ Tough to Use

    Solution: Convince the users to endure because DEF is so cool.

    Ya, that's the way to do it :)

    [asdbsd is currently away; this message was pre-recorded.]

  2. Dave says:

    Of course here in the UK a take-away is much more tasty.

  3. GHI says:

    I wonder what the key take-away of Vista was…

    [GHI is currently away; this message was pre-recorded.]

  4. Paul says:

    Key Take-away:

    Lamb Kurma

    Plain Naan

    Pilau Rice

    [Paul is currently waiting for take-away; this message was pre-recorded.]

  5. Tim says:

    This is one of those bits of microspeak that gets to me. About the only thing more annoying would be using "announce" instead of "announcement" (as in the recent "Windows Phone 7 Announce" stupidity) and "ask" instead of "request". Is it really that hard to stop trying to shoehorn verbs into nouns here?

  6. James Hart says:

    Flagging up what the "key take-away" from your presentation is is just an admission that your presentation skills lack the clarity for the audience to figure out the most relevant information on their own.

    I've seen a similar thing where a presentation ends with a slide captioned 'call-to-action'. These presenters have been told that a good, persuasive presentation ends with a call to action for the participants. They haven't realised that a good call-to-action at the end of a persuasive presentation doesn't need to be labelled as such.

    [Or because the presenters have been told by the conference organizers that "Call to action" is a mandatory presentation slide. -Raymond]
  7. Taylor says:

    I think this language has escaped Microsoft and become "business speak" rather than Microspeak. Either that or every place I've worked recently (and that's a lot as a consultant) is full of ex-Microsoft people.

    I'll admit to using it occasionally. Sometimes no matter what you do there's execs in the room who just can't figure out what parts of the presentation are important. Not entirely their fault, as it was written for technical audience and they invited themselves.

  8. MikeCaron says:

    So, if every take-away is a key take-away, doesn't that make the 'key' part redundant?

    What happens if there's a take-away so crucially important, that's it's even more important than the regular key take-aways? A key-key take-away? Key^2? :P

  9. Lost says:

    I tried using the Microsoft® Translator at the top of the page, but none of the combo-box choices produced anything more understandable.

  10. kog999 says:

    "So, if every take-away is a key take-away, doesn't that make the 'key' part redundant?"

    yes, it’s the same logic as making all tasks have a critical priority. when you define all take-aways as having the same importance there is no room for a more import one.

  11. Just some guy says:

    The conference organizers probably require a "call to action" slide because they're used to presenters who can't make their presentations clear.

    And when you think about it, most good technical presentations are done by people who know stuff, and not necessarily by people who's primary job skill is "teaching stuff to other people". This means the information can be accurate, but not necessarily presented perfectly. This is usually better than a brilliant and memorable presentation of inaccurate information.

    If you care about the information, then you may need to make some effort in order to learn, and not just have everything spoon-fed to you.

  12. ppt says:

    Most presentations are made by corporate powerpoint drones. Powerpoint presentations usually only adds cost to projects, but can in some instances be fatal, as NASA concluded.

    http://www.edwardtufte.com/…/q-and-a-fetch-msg

    blogs.computerworld.com/…/powerpoint_makes_you_stupid

  13. APardoe says:

    @Tim: Check your OED: "ask" has been a noun as long as it has been a verb, for over 1000 years. Don't start complaining now just because people in the past few hundred years have decided that "ask" should only be a verb.

    I hate when people claim that English should be a static language. Its beauty comes from its dynamic character! Please, please, find something else to complain about.

  14. APardoe says:

    @Tim: Check your OED: "ask" has been a noun as long as it has been a verb, for over 1000 years. Don't start complaining now just because people in the past few hundred years have decided that "ask" should only be a verb.

    I hate when people claim that English should be a static language. Its beauty comes from its dynamic character! Please, please, find something else to complain about.

  15. Cheong says:

    @Dave: Yeah, take-away in Hong Kong is tasty too.

    In here, our slide only have section named "Summary" or "Key notes".

    [Cheong has consumed the take-away; this message was pre-recorded.]

  16. Worf says:

    Thanks Raymond – these topics are helpful… someone I know uses "ask" on me.

  17. Gabe says:

    As somebody who rarely has time for complete presentations, I prefer to just read the slides. That means I want all pertinent information available in the slideshow. And for reference, I want to be able to skip right to the end and see slides with the "call to action" or "key take-aways" and a table of URLs.

    I hate having to filter through an hour of presentation just to figure out what the two new APIs are, or whatever. Saying that a "call to action" slide is unnecessary in a good presentation is like saying that an abstract is unnecessary in a well-written paper. I consider both to be valuable reference material.

  18. clavium says:

    "Key take-away" sounds like a tool of parental discipline. I can remember it being inflicted on an acquaintance for a bad grade in 10th-grade trigonometry, and have used it myself.

    The key take-away will last until your grades improve, young man!

  19. Andrew Brehm says:

    [Andrew is here; the message is away.]

  20. Drak says:

    I wonder if Raymond has been taken away (or should that be 'take-awayed'?) because he is prerecording his messages :)

  21. none says:

    @APardoe

    It's rather ironic that you follow "Don't start complaining now just because people in the past few hundred years have decided that 'ask' should only be a verb." by "I hate when people claim that English should be a static language."

    Abiding by a centuries old definition of a word is what makes a language static.  Dynamic languages lose usages just as often as they gain them.  Sure, they can revert too, but there's also nothing wrong with criticizing forced language for the sake of sounding 'businessy' either :)

  22. APardoe says:

    @none: You're correct, I did not disambiguate between two distinct points. My first assertion is that Tim's specific example does not support his argument. My second assertion is that I generally dislike arguments of this sort, favoring a dynamic language.

    First assertion: Tim implies that "ask" is a verb being shoehorned into a noun, and suggests that we use another verb, "request", in its place. I assert that, based on historical evidence from the OED, no shoehorning is taking place. In fact "ask" as a noun has a grand old tradition.

    Second assertion: I dislike complaints that the language is evolving (or, in the case of "ask", reverting a few hundred years.) I believe that it's futile to attempt to strictly codify spoken languages over long periods of time. I'll stop before I start unfairly criticizing the French :)

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