There is incredible power in language. As human beings we make sense of the world around us by giving things labels and no combination of six letters has the power to spike more fear than the word “change”…
My dear friends Matt and Kat are just about to launch their brilliant new book The Forgotten Forest on Kickstarter…
In this “Rapid Success” video series I deliver a top communication tip in 90 seconds or less. In this video I discuss the power of intention and why we need to start focusing on how we want our audience to feel.
I’ve been trying to appoint a Financial Advisor over the last couple of weeks. It’s a world that I don’t really understand so I’m looking for someone who is an expert in their field and can then translate all that mumbo jumbo (my technical term for anything that appears on a spreadsheet!) into words that I can understand. I’ve been amazed at how few of the companies I have talked to have been able to do that. I’ve been bombarded with technical language and acronyms, been asked to read “Terms and Conditions” the length of United Nation Treaties just to set up an initial consultation and even had a telephone conversation where an advisor actively tried to evade my questions around fees. Needless to say these interactions haven’t led to me appointing the firms in question! It’s not all been bad news though, I have found two firms who have made things simple and I am meeting with both to see which is the best fit. So, what did these firms do differently and how can you apply the lessons in your line of business?...
Put your audience first
When you’re an expert (I believe we’re all experts in our individual fields) it’s very easy to forget that the person you’re talking to probably isn’t. They haven’t had your experiences and they possibly aren’t as passionate about your subject matter as you are. Rather than broadcast your knowledge at your audience it is important to share it with them. I think we have to take responsibility when we communicate. How can we translate what we are saying into language that the people we are talking to can understand? What examples can you give or questions can you ask that will resonate? For example, when one Financial Advisor started talking about Asset Management, Estate Planning and my projected Net Worth, whilst I had a relatively solid idea of what he was talking about, I felt nervous that I hadn’t quite understood and stupid for not being more knowledgeable. When another asked me to start thinking about my dream lifestyle, the type of house I’d like to live in when I retired and how many holidays I wanted to take each year, I felt excited and empowered. There are many ways to crack an egg. Choose the method that your audience prefers rather than defaulting to your own preference.
Cut out the jargon
Every industry on the planet has it’s own language. It might be very subtle but if you listen hard enough you’ll start to hear words and phrases that you use regularly and instantly understand, which have little or no meaning to the outside world. Whilst these act as a short cut when everyone in the conversation is fluent with the terminology, to anyone outside of the circle hearing this language can be incredibly isolating. When I work with clients on presentations I always ask them to remove all acronyms and “technical speak” completely. Not only does this make it much easier for the lay-people in the audience to understand what you’re talking about, it also ensures that you give proper weight to the terminology that you use. ROI, SIPP, FSA, ISA, IHT, LTV, NI, HMRC – without proper context it’s all just alphabet soup!
Give people time to process
If you’re worried you might be losing your audience a natural tendency is to speed up in order to get things over and done with quickly, or to bombard people with information in order to reaffirm your expert status. In fact you should try to do the opposite. Slow down and say less. It takes people time to digest and process new information. In order to give ideas meaning and give ourselves a chance of remembering new things we need to create connections and pictures in our minds. That requires space, especially with complex concepts. Better to make three key points that land, than to introduce seven topics which all go over people’s heads. You shouldn’t leave your audience exhausted and scrambling to keep up. Instead give them less information and more time to internalise what they are hearing. Trust the people that you are speaking to, if you’ve created the right environment and they need more information they’ll ask questions. If you’ve ever spent an hour on the phone with a Financial Advisor who loves the sound of their own voice you’ll know I’m right!
My final piece of advice is to ask yourself the following question: “Would this make sense to a five year old?”. If the answer is yes then you’re probably on to a winner. It’s not about dumbing down, it’s about conveying your message in a meaningful way that leaves your audience feeling empowered to act. To quote Albert Einstein “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
Have you got any tips or tricks for communicating complex ideas? Do you think I’m talking simplistic nonsense? I’d love you to join the conversation by commenting in the box below.
Keep shining (simply)!
I shed an unexpected tear yesterday. The news of Sir Terry Wogan’s death hit me in a surprising way. He was someone that I respected as a broadcaster but I would never have categorised myself as a “fan”. Whilst I have fond memories of watching Children In Need as a kid, I was never a religious listener to his radio programme and I have only vague recollections of his television chat show. Yet, somehow, without me ever realising it he had connected with me. As I read about his passing, I felt sad. Just weeks before, I had had the same experience on hearing the news about David Bowie and Alan Rickman. A sense of loss, a feeling of grief, a tangible connection to people that I had never met. What was it that had moved me? Why did I have such a strong emotional reaction? I’ve been mulling it over for the last 24 hours and I think it comes down to one thing. Resonance.
If I think of all three men, not only do I see their faces but I can hear their voices. All three had unique and distinct tones that were unmistakably them. Through their sound they were able to connect and that connection bound them to their audience. This might all sound a bit “new age” but the reality is much more scientific. When we speak we are simply sending waves of sound towards our audience, which hit the tiny bones in the inner ear and are then decoded by the listener and interpreted for meaning. All this takes a split second but the impact is much longer lasting. Send boring sound waves and you are likely to be forgotten. Send something more unusual or exciting and your message will land.
We talk of ideas “resonating” with us. On a very basic, animalistic level, I think that means that we literally feel their vibrations. The message is felt in our hearts. So, having a rich, resonate voice is important if you want to really connect with your audience. There’s a reason that they used a soft husky voice on those M&S food adverts for example. If the narrator had a sharp, nasal tone, you would be much less likely to dream about the melt-in-the-middle Belgium chocolate pudding that was appearing on your screen!
Resonance is something that we can develop, some voices have more natural resonance than others but it is a skill that can be worked on. There are simple exercises that you can practice to increase it. However, fundamentally, the trick is to get comfortable with allowing the voice and your message to be heard. Not holding it in – keeping your ideas close to your chest – but being generous and willing to share. I think often we judge the sound that we make. Allowing yourself to be heard can make you feel vulnerable but it is in those moments of vulnerability where you truly connect to your audience. You move past the exchange of ideas and into something more intimate and exciting. Wogan, Rickman and Bowie are all great examples of performers that could take their audience on a journey, who’s unique voices instantly transported us and who’s messages spoke to our emotions.
Terry Wogan’s poignant parting words to the listeners of his final breakfast show in 2009 have been replayed and quoted many times in the last 24 hours. Simple and powerful they spoke directly to the heart. “Thank you. Thank you for being my friend.”… Imagine if all businesses had that level of relationship with their customers… That, my friends, is the power of resonance.
In this video I reveal the simple secret for grabbing your audience’s attention and getting them onside from the word go.
You’ve got seven seconds to make a first impression. Make them count!!
I’d love to hear how you get on with implementing this strategy so please leave me a comment in the box below.
Many public speakers have really great ideas and with fantastic content. However, they are ruining their performance by not using their space like a pro. In this video I am going to show you some simple tips to help you own your stage when presenting and look completely comfortable and in control.
Tip no.1: Get out from behind the podium
What most people do is see a podium and think “right, I am going to stand behind it”. Actually, that’s the worst thing that you can do. What you are doing by standing at the podium and leaving all that space in the middle of the auditorium is giving your PowerPoint slides “centre stage”. Just remember that the audience has come to listen to you. So, step out from behind the podium and find yourself connecting with them.
Tip no.2: Don’t move around
My tip here is to find yourself still and calm in a place that you feel safe. Find a place of stillness, a place of recovery and know that this is the centre point that you are going back to. This does not mean that you shouldn’t ever walk up and down or engage with people in the audience, but after that, know where are you coming back to and find that place of stillness.
Tip no.3: Stop giving the PowerPoint slides all the power
There is nothing worse than walking into an auditorium and seeing someone giving a great speech and watching them look up to their PowerPoint slides. This distracts your audience and gives all the focus to the words on the screen, which takes the focus away from you. Please don’t let your PowerPoint slides steal the show! I’ve got loads of tips on this topic so will deal with it in more detail in an upcoming video.
I hope that you find my tips on “how to own your stage when speaking” useful. Please share your comments with me in the box below and I’d love to hear about any other tricks that work for you.
There are many things you can do to make your audience love you but in my opinion the simplest and most effective is to make brilliant eye contact.
In my latest video I give you my top three tips for connecting with your audience using your eyes. If you find eye contact a little uncomfortable or you’d just like more engagement with the people you’re talking to, then this video is for you.
I really appreciate the comments these posts have been getting recently. It’s been amazing to hear people generously sharing their experiences and their own ideas for how to be brilliant communicators. So, if you’d like to join the debate I’d love to hear from you in the box below.