Examine the greatest leaders in the world and you will find they are all exceptional communicators. They have the remarkable power to speak about their ideas in a way that resonates with your emotions and your aspirations. They recognize that if their message does not take deep root with the audience, then it will not be understood, much less championed. They recognize that the message is not about the messenger, and in fact, has nothing to do with the messenger. Rather, it is 100% about meeting the needs, the expectations and the ambitions of those you are communicating with.
What else can you learn from speakers who have historically made an influential impact on the world? The right speech at the right time can turn a national crisis into an incident, or pour sand on the flames of injustice. What have some of the most memorable leaders taught us about public speaking?
1. Establish Trust: People do not open up to those they do not trust. When people have the sense that a presenter is deserving of their trust, they will invest time, listen and be open-minded. While you can attempt to demand trust, it rarely works. Keep in mind people will forgive many things where trust exists, but will rarely forgive anything where trust is absent.
2. Get Personal: The more personal and engaging the conversation is, the more effective it will be. There is great truth in the following axiom: “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” If you do not develop meaningful relationships with people, you will never know what is really on their mind until it is too late to do anything about it.
3. Replace Ego with Empathy: Do not let your ego write cheques that your talent cannot cash. When candor is communicated with empathy and compassion rather than the superiority of an over-inflated ego, great things begin to happen. Empathetic communicators display a level of authenticity and transparency that is not present in communicators who fail to connect with their audience. Understanding this communication principle helps turn apathy into respect and skepticism into trust.
4. Focus on the Give-Away, NOT the Take-Away: The best communicators are not only skilled at learning and gathering information while communicating, but adept at encouraging ideas, aligning expectations, inspiring action and spreading their vision. The key is to approach each interaction with a servant’s heart. When you truly focus on contributing more than receiving, you will win the hearts of your audience. Although this may seem counter-intuitive, by passionately focusing on the other party’s wants, needs and desire, you will learn much more than you ever will be imposing your own agenda.
5. Get Specific: Specificity is better than ambiguity. 11 times out of 10. Learn how to communicate with clarity. Simple and concise is always superior to complex and confounding. Time has never been a more precious commodity than it is today. Without understanding the value of brevity and simplicity, people will tune out long before you get to the key objectives. Your goal is to dismiss the superfluous and make your words count.