Focus Your Communications

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by Jerry Cahn, Ph.D., J.D.

I recently read an article talking about what businesses were looking for in their new, Millennial leaders. At the top of the list wasn’t “hard” technical skills (e.g., computer, engineering, etc.) but “soft “ skills: excellent communication skills. Increasingly, as the world gets more complex, technology plays a bigger role, and workforces become more diverse and spread out,, communication skills become much more valuable.

In Communicate to Influence, Ben and Kelly Decker note that to inspire people to act, you need to recognize the importance of having a valuable message (content) and build an emotional connection. The latter is done by showing warmth, care, interest and competence. Best way to do so is through stories, analogies and even humor.

This is very important for presenters, because so much time is invested in developing facts and figures for content, and trying to remember it all, that they forget the importance of developing a bond between them and their audience. As we teach our presenters, you need to be Audience-Driven and give Authentic Presentations (ADAP). That means understanding the audience’s needs for logical information and addressing the emotional needs to absorb any risks involved in taking action by having confidence also in the speaker’s expertise. Worry less about remembering to share every single detail; if it’s important, someone will ask! And if not, at some point in the future you can add it. It’s usually the “gestalt” – the overall picture you create that counts, not detailing all 87 points that form it1

Second, it’s the authenticity of a speaker that’s critical to bond creation. Most people can sense when someone is trying to “sell” them something they really don’t believe it – their tone, pace, body language etc. gives it away. When a speaker is vulnerable on an issue, the same thing happens: the voice and facial expressions give cues that the person is authentically revealing something important. Finally, when a speaker feels confined by presenting a message he/she doesn’t really believe in, or using a templated presentation that’s not consistent with the presenter’s style, it becomes obvious to many audiences. Have you ever noticed a significant drop in the presenter’s energy from the first words greeting the audience to the beginning of the presentation? Have you noticed when a presenter suddenly speeds up on a complex slide? Both are indications of the speaker being uncomfortable and knowing that he/she isn’t being authentic.
So focus your communications on the behavior/attitudes you’re trying to influence by mastering the content and building rapport with the audience, because it’s usually the emotional bond and the important content that will influence your audience.

What are your experiences with being audience driven and giving authentic presentations (ADAP)? Share them with us.