You Will Be Motivating, Not Data Dumping
Once you have decided what you want your audience to do after they have listened to your speech, then it is time for you to start researching, digging around, and looking under rocks for messages, facts, and numbers that will motivate your audience to do what you want. It cannot be just to educate them on everything that you do or know unless you are an academic or a professor giving a speech to students during a college lecture. The people you are speaking to in the business world or any non academic world are not there to listen to every word of what you do. You need to restrict and limit yourself to what is truly the most important. So you need to brainstorm on 500 or a 1000 different messages, numbers, facts, and data points. However, from there, you have to do something crucial, which is applying your judgement.
So much of being a great communicator and having strong communication skills has nothing to do with the tone of your voice or what you do with your hands while you speak; it has to do with your judgement. Too many people who are bad communicators are bad communicators because they use no judgement when they speak. So they just try to tell their audience everything they know about a subject. If your audience had to know everything that you know about a subject then they would already have your job.vSo you have to look at all of your data points through a screen or filter using which you can determine which facts or numbers your audience has to know especially in order to motivate them to take the action that you want. You need to figure out which messages are the best motivators for them to be convinced to perform a certain action. Once you begin to apply this, you will realise that it’s quite easy to filter out important messages.
Now after you have narrowed your messages down, you have to put them in order of priority. From this list you need to pick the top 5 ideas. Why just 5 ideas? I have worked with over 10,000 clients over the last 30 years and I have asked them how many points they remember from the best presenter they have ever seen in their lives and no one seems to remember more than 5 ideas. In fact, hardly two ideas can be reiterated off the top of the head on average by the people I work with.
So don’t be greedy and do not try to communicate every single fact to your audience. Do not have a PowerPoint slide with 27 bullet points as it is not going to work. If you want to be a successful communicator and want to be seen as someone with strong communication skills, remember that it is not communication if it comes out of your mouth. It is not communication if it is on a slide either. It is communication if it comes out of your mouth, goes into the ear of an audience member, they understand it, and they remember it in order to take an action.
Yes, Even Beginners CAN Tell Stories
I was conducting a media training in Manhattan just two days ago. I was working with a bunch of senior executives at a major Media company and I said to one of them that I need them to sit in the hot seat so I can interview them. They became flustered and said that they were just there to take notes. I convinced them to get on the seat asked him a couple of questions. He answered them, I recorded him on a video camera, played it back to him, and critiqued him. We did that several times over the session. At the end of it all, he was profusely thanking me saying how much the activity actually helped but boy, did he not want to do it when I first asked him to in the morning.
What did I just do there? I told a story. Is it true? Yes. Did I have to rehearse it a hundred times? No. I actually just thought of it a moment ago and this is the first time I’ve actually told this story. But I told this story because I do think this is an important point for you to know. Everyone is nervous about communicating specially in certain situations when they are placed out of their comfort zone. They may be fine talking one-on-one to a friend but once you put them in front of a video camera, things become very different. But the real lesson here is is that the number one thing that great communicators do consistently is that they use stories to illustrate every single point that is important to them. We, as human beings, are hardwired to tell stories and to remember them when we hear them. We are not hardwired to remember facts, figures, numbers, or bullet points.
Right now, you may consider yourself to be a beginner when it comes to the public speaking arena, but the number one way to make everyone think you are an experienced campaigner and not a beginner is to tell relevant, interesting, and stimulating stories to your audience that will make your messages come alive and make them much more understandable and memorable. You are not supposed to tell a story just so you can be funny- you are not doing stand-up comedy. The story I told you is not funny but it is real and it is relevant. It also has certain elements such as a setting, a character, a problem, a little dialogue, as well as a resolution with a point to it. It took less than a minute for me to tell it and it should not take long for you to tell stories either.
Here is the thing that I found to be remarkably true regardless of if it is someone with beginner communication skills or decades of experience and expertise, is that horrible communicators never tell stories. It is fine to be a beginner when it comes to communication skills but it is really very easy to trick your audience or anyone you are speaking to into thinking that you are a pro at this because you are completely comfortable with it and are extremely good at it. The key is to tell a story which should ideally not be fictional but an actual conversation that you have had with real customers in a situation that is relevant to your message.