This review first ran in the Aug. 31 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.
Inform, entertain, direct or inspire.
These are your options every time you stand and deliver. Choose wisely.
Too many of us aim no higher than informing an audience. We deliver the audio version of memos and reports. That’s a waste of time for us and a wasted opportunity for you.
Entertaining gets you a laugh and not much else.
Directing only works when we’re in a crisis and need to take corrective action ASAP. Playing the dad or mom card any other time gets you disengaged employees who only do what they’re told with maximum supervision.
Inspiration is what we crave and what you should aim to deliver whenever you’re speaking. Inspire us and we’ll follow you because we want to and not because we have to.
“There’s an endless deluge of data, facts and figures,” say Ben and Kelly Decker, authors of Communicate to Influence and consultants in business communications. “We’re inundated with all of that, and we’re seeking more. Trust is down, our attention is spread thin and we’re thirsting for inspiration all around us. Urge us to be part of something. Challenge us to believe in something. Motivate us to act.”
So why do so many speeches, presentations and talks motivate us only to stare at the screens on our digital pacifiers and will away the minutes?
The Deckers say we fall victim to five lies of public speaking.
- We believe that if we say the words, people will get it.
- We fool ourselves into thinking that when we’re on, we’re great.
- Instead of preparing, we think we can we just wing it
- We believe that we’re pretty good at public speaking and our colleagues, like the subjects in the Emperor’s New Clothes, give us false reassurance.
- And we stick with the tried and true ways of communicating, which explains why no meeting’s complete without a PowerPoint deck and all talks are delivered behind a lectern from a script.
The Deckers have come up with a communications roadmap to move you from informing to influencing and inspiring.
Always start with your audience. It’s all about them and never about you. Know what they want to hear. Tell them how they’ll benefit and make the world a better place. “Your audience members want to be moved. In order to reach them, we need to get to know them and design our message to directly meet their interests, wants and needs.”
Make an emotional connection with your audience. We don’t care what you know until we know that you care. “It’s not our competence but our warmth, humility, genuineness and generosity that people pick up on first when they are evaluating us,” according to the Deckers. Fail that test and we’ll tune you out.
Strengthen your emotional connection by telling stories and using humour, analogies, quotes, pictures and visuals.
Exude humble confidence. Be authentic. Realize that the experience you create while communicating matters more than the words you’re saying.
Focus on communicating just one big idea. “What is the one point you want your audience members to take away? You have to pick one thing to say. Really. One and only one.” Tell us everything and we’ll remember nothing.
And don’t forget to tell us what we can do. Don’t leave us guessing. Serve up a combination of general and concrete action steps. “You must be able to point them toward a path of action. Give them a vision for the future – whether it’s in the next hour or the next year – with a couple of steps they can take to make something happen.”
The roadmap set out by the Deckers requires you to do your homework before you stand and deliver in a banquet hall, board room or on the shop floor. If you’re a leader, you have a responsibility to do better than just inform, entertain or direct us.
“People around you want to be part of something bigger – they’re thirsting for inspiration and begging to be moved. It’s time to answer that call.”