Five Key Principles to Great Communicating

This post originally appeared as a Guest Blog in Thom Singer’s http://thomsinger.blogspot.com/ so I thought it only appropriate to feature it here. It is over 20 years experience of key principles compressed into a single “post”:

Five Key Principles to Great Communicating

1. The Spoken Word is More Powerful than the Written Word.
To all you writers (and readers) out there, this might seem heresy – but hold on. The written word is GREAT for information. People can read five times faster than they you can speak. The written word is great for reference. And we are taught the written word, and how to write. But it isn’t the most powerful medium if you want to create action.

The power is in the spoken word – in our voice and eyes and movement. We involve all the senses, and our very powerful unconscious brain in our messages. We are the message. In speaking you can reach the emotions more immediately and more forcefully. You can reach The First Brain in speaking, not as easily in reading. (See “Blink” and “You’ve Got To Be Believed To Be Heard.”

Imagine being moved and inspired by Martin Luther King’s “I’ve Got A Dream” speech, or John F. Kennedy’s “We’ll put a man on the moon” speech. Being filled with the sounds and words and energy. Then imagine reading the words by themselves. Their words alone would not vibrate in our memories.

2. Always Have a Point Of View. Always.
No more rambling data dumps if you want impact in your business presentations. I’ve seen and heard thousands of speeches, messages and presentations, and I’d guess about 80% of them do not have a focus. It should be the first thing.

Anytime you are speaking, including on the phone or even sending an email, ask yourself, “What’s the point?” What’s The Big Idea. Why is it important for someone to listen to you. If anyone can be listening to you and say, “So what?” – you do not have a strong Point Of View.

We have a preparation “triangle” we teach people who want to be influential, and it sets three keys:

  • What’s my point!
  • What action do I want people to take!
  • What’s the benefit in it for them!

If you will just set those points even before you start creating your arguments and telling your stories, you will have the great benefit of always being on target.

3. Communication Rides Energy
When you are speaking, think of yourself as a horse, and your message is riding to the destination of influence. Or if you want another metaphor – you are the computer, and your message is the software that delivers those folders and files. If you have a clunky old computer with weak chips, it doesn’t matter how great your files are – they won’t get there very fast.

There are what I call the Behavioral Big Six – habits of our voice and body that have nothing to do with the content we speak, but everything to do with the impact that we have. There are subtleties and nuances of each, and it is worth finding out your ‘energy’ habits through feedback in these areas:

  • Eye Communication – the most important, at least five (5) seconds
  • Posture and Movement – move, don’t stand behind lecterns
  • Dress and Appearance – “thin slicing” or the first three seconds
  • Gestures and the Smile – animation reflects our enthusiasm and passion
  • Voice and Vocal Variety – beware the monotone voice
  • Pausing – rid of non-words and the Power of the Pause

4. Visual Impact Dominates Personal Impact
We often give inconsistent messages. When we do, the visual is what is believed, not the sound of the voice, or even the content. Professor Albert Mehrabian’s classic study showed this in what people trusted in these three areas when there were inconstancies:

Verbal:            7%

Vocal:             38%

Visual:            55%

And why not. We are overwhelmingly visually dominant. The nerve pathways from the eyes to the brain are 25 times larger than the next biggest – the auditory. There’s much more here – suffice it to say this is why video feedback is so dramatically powerful. Observed behavior changes.

5. Authenticity Is the Core of Communicating
Speaking effectively is a learned skill, it is not a born talent. We are all born with certain capabilities, just like some athletes are born faster, taller, stronger, etc. But the great athletes are those that are coached and practice. They learn – by getting out of their own way.

Speaking and communicating well is not a slick thing. But it is learned. The process is much like peeling the onion. All we have to do is get out of our own way – remove barriers between ourselves and our audiences.

The problem is fear often blocks us. Or thinking that speaking is just a different form of writing, and that if I say the words people will ‘get’ them. Not so. Speaking is as much a behavioral process as an intellectual process. We need to be enthused and passionate about our subject. We need to be authentic.

For more details and information, see www.Decker.com

7 comments on “Five Key Principles to Great Communicating

  1. Bert
    Yesterday’s example
    (watching B. Obama,
    especially at the end of his speech) that,
    “In speaking you can reach the emotions more immediately and more forcefully “:
    “Yes, we can heal this nation,” he said. “Yes, we can seize our future … Out of many, we are one … while we breathe, we will hope, and where we are met with cynicism and doubt and fear and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of the American people in three simple words: ‘Yes, we can.'”

  2. Bert
    Yesterday’s example
    (watching B. Obama,
    especially at the end of his speech) that,
    “In speaking you can reach the emotions more immediately and more forcefully “:
    “Yes, we can heal this nation,” he said. “Yes, we can seize our future … Out of many, we are one … while we breathe, we will hope, and where we are met with cynicism and doubt and fear and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of the American people in three simple words: ‘Yes, we can.'”

  3. Thanks Michael – corrected. I’ve used infamy incorrectly for some time.
    King and Kennedy will live in our memories – they were very powerful communicators.

  4. “They words alone would not live in infamy.”
    “Their” words maybe…
    Also “infamy” is not a good thing, what do you have against Martin Luther King and his dream?

  5. Decker on Communicating

    It is continually exciting to me when, while checking out the thirty plus RSS feeds that I subscribe to, that I find a new nugget. Bert Decker’s blog is just such a discovery and is now feed number thirty-one and

  6. Presentation Skills II – Using Visuals

    How we take in information during a presentation: Professor Albert Mehrabian did a lot of research into how we take in information during a presentation. He concluded that 55% of the information we take in is visual and only 7%…

  7. Bert: Came across your blog through Sam. I am but a mere novice to presenting but recognise some great comments here (this just might be the best!). Keep up the great work. Fred
    PS Get Sam posting more too – he brings a lot of value!