You see this problem in the world of politics and big media all the time. A politician who has great poll numbers, and has won by large margins in his or her own state or province, decides to run to be the leader of the whole country. Everyone expects similar success at the national level.
Anticipation is high.
And at that point, all the positive numbers melt away. The candidate falls flat. The speaking skills and media skills that got them to become a governor or senator simply didn’t work when they were trying to become a president or Prime Minister.
Similarly, there are TV reporters and anchors who are superstars in their own local city, even a big city, but when they try to jump to network news or international news, they fall flat.
It’s because the communication skills that got you to where you are, are rarely the skills you need to get you to the next level.
Similar things happen to athletes who may be the star of their minor league team, only to fail miserably when they get called up to the major leagues.
Flaws that go unnoticed at one level of play become glaringly obvious as you get called up to the big leagues of sport, politics or business.
Everything is relative, and when you’re competing with people who aren’t very good at communicating, it’s easy to stand out as clear, confident, and even charismatic. But if everyone you’re competing with is already great, then it’s much harder to stand out.
The solution is to avoid complacency at every stage of your career. Truly, exceptional communicators rehearse regularly at every stage of their career, they get feedback from everyone, they are constantly out to improve.
(To see how to do this in more detail, please watch this video here)
Ronald Reagan always found the time to do video rehearsals before any debate or major speech. Lesser politicians make the excuse that they are too busy and there is no time.
Steve Jobs would find the time to rehearse a major product announcement presentation for one whole week. Other CEOs do a quick run through of their bullet points.
At some level, communication skills are binary in the sense that the speaker is either interesting or boring to most audience members. But at another level, at the highest levels of business, politics, and world affairs, communication skill is more like musical skills or acting skills. The greatest musicians in the world play their music and practice every day of their lives, for decades. And they all stand out as radically superior to someone who plays occasionally in a weekend band.
Meryl Streep took the time to go to the Yale School of Drama and she rehearses meticulously for every role. She is light years ahead of the average actor who dabbles in community theater once or twice a year.
If you want to reach the pinnacle of your profession, it is not absolutely essential that you become a world-class, communicator, presenter, and speaker. They are influential, thought leaders in nearly every industry who are not very good speakers.
But you dramatically, and I mean dramatically, increase your odds of becoming a highly influential leader in your industry, if you can also become an incredibly compelling, memorable, interesting, and persuasive presenter.
Having worked with tens of thousands of executives all over the globe for years, I can tell you one thing that’s highly encouraging. You do not have to have any unique talents, either physical or genetic, to become a world-class communicator. You don’t have to have perfect pitch. Or be 7 feet tall.
Anyone can become a great communicator, if they are willing to dedicate themselves to a process of continual improvement. The good news is it doesn’t necessarily take 10,000 hours. But it’s also not a 30 second or one minute or even one day session either.
Becoming a better communicator needs to become a part of your identity. It needs to become a part of your DNA. Really good communicators would no more stand up and bore people or ramble then you would send a proposal or résumé to someone, knowing it’s filled with spelling errors and grammar mistakes.
For some rare and lucky people, attitude alone, and persistence is enough to become a great communicator. There are, in fact, some naturals, who were horrible when they started off in their career, but became great communicators without any formal instruction. Kudos to them.
But most mortals need a little extra help. If you feel like you would like some help to become not just a competent speaker, or a good speaker, but a great communicator, then give us a call. My colleagues and I are happy to talk with you about our high stakes presenter program design specifically to help successful professionals, who are already competent at speaking, become great communicators in every presentation opportunity they have.
Please click this link to set up a 15 minute call.