If you want to be a leader, you must be a good communicator. Or as Winston Churchill once said, “The difference between leadership and mere management is communication.”
Two of the most powerful statements you could make consist of only three words each: I love you and I am sorry. They carry a great deal of meaning.
We don’t always have to be as succinct as that, but we do need to be able to get to the point quickly. Why? Because we live in an age of information overload, so we have all developed a rapid switch-off reflex.
That’s the conditioning you are up against, and only skillful communicators can get through the barrier. This is especially important in business, so let me offer you a simple formula for making your communication more effective. I call it 2-4-6-8:
• 2 fundamental principles of public speaking;
• 4 main situations in which to have good communication skills;
• 6 common obstacles to clear communication; and
• 8 essentials that will enable you to plan and prepare a speech or presentation that others will want to hear.
2 General Principles
Why do you make a presentation? Is it to impart some information? Then why not send an e-mail instead? It’s more efficient, takes less time, and people can read it when it suits them best.
The real reason for making a speech or presentation is to bring about change in the thinking, attitude or behaviour of the audience.
So, General Principle no. 1 is: Aim to make change.
The second General Principle is about the way you deliver your factual content. It’s never enough to deliver facts raw. Facts and figures are neutral, and need to be interpreted to become information and understood to become knowledge. But that knowledge may be shared by others, so why do people need to hear it from you? You need to put your own filter over the knowledge and give people your take on the facts. That will make them unique.
So General Principle no. 2 is: Filter the facts.
There are 4 situations in which good communication skills are necessary:
1. Informally, in your private life: Do you know anyone who is boring? Someone who causes you to lose the will to live?
2. Informally among your colleagues at work: Similarly, at work, there may be some people whose contributions to conversations are leaden. You don’t want to be the one who drives others away, do you?
3. Formal presentations to your peers or the Board: Even internal presentations need to be slick. They get you noticed. Consider what happens at meetings – the ones who speak well are impressive and more likely to get support for their ideas.
4. Formal presentations to clients: These presentations matter the most because you are speaking on behalf of your company. Clients will be impressed and persuaded by well-structured and polished presentations.
Let’s now consider the obstacles to clear communication. Most of them are created by ourselves, which is why I use the acrostic I BUILT.
Misunderstanding: 6 Obstacles (Erected by Ourselves)
I = Incomplete: Can what you say make a mental picture? Imagine receiving directions to somewhere you have never been before and reaching a junction where the directions are silent on which way to turn.
B = Beliefs: People have pre-conceptions and they are conditioned by personal experience. Do your own get in the way?
U = Unclear: You need a clear idea of what you are trying to say, otherwise others will find it hard to understand you.
I = Irrelevant: If you put in extraneous stuff (that belongs in brackets), you’ll confuse your message.
L = Language: The same word can mean different things to different people, often according to the kind of business they are in.
T = Terms of reference: Establish common ground or your listeners will soon switch off. Start where they are, and add to their existing store of knowledge.
Finally, here is an 8-point checklist for business presentations. Follow them and you’ll be fine. Otherwise, you may be sad—hence the acrostic, OH AM I SAD.
O = Objective: What’s your purpose? What do you want to achieve?
H = Hook: Always use a hook to grab attention at the start. It could be something unexpected that you say or do, but however dramatic, it must relate to your message.
A = Audience: Always consider who will be in your audience and ensure that you make your message relevant to their needs.
M = Message: What would you like your audience to receive and remember from your presentation? What is the essence of your content and why should they care?
I = Interest: You have their attention, now tell them the things that will cause them to say, “I want that.” This is the body of your presentation.
S = Structure: Follow a simple structure that keeps you on track and allows your listeners to follow you.
A = Action: What do you want them to do as a result of hearing you?
D = Delivery: How good are you on the platform? It’s worth getting professional coaching. All top athletes do. And in these crunching times, the best speakers will have the edge.
In about 2 minutes at Gettysburg, President Abraham Lincoln delivered one of the most quoted speeches in American history. In a single short speech, Lt. Col. Tim Collins inspired his troops during the second Gulf War and became an international figure.
That’s the power of speech. So, 2-4-6-8, how do you communicate?
This article was excerpted from PR News' Media Training Guidebook 2009 Edition. The article was written by Phillip Khan-Panni is CEO of PKP Communicators, a business consultancy offering training programs in communication skills and cross culture. To order this guidebook or find out more information, go to www.prnewsonline.com/store.