We are bombarded by information, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Internet, television and print news sources, tell us everything we need to know, and more. Business, politics, culture. you name it and we can hear about it anytime, any place. We can even get news sent to us on our mobile phones. And, we are not only bombarded by information, we are assaulted by those who interpret everything for us. We are spoken at, all day, every day. It is always so refreshing, therefore, when someone – a company president, a manager, or a sales representative – speaks to us, rather than at us, in ways that we can understand and identify with.
This is the challenge of effective communication – to deliver important information, share ideas and persuade in a way that engages your audience. Ronald Reagan’s fundamental rule of public speaking is timeless: “Always speak TO your audience, as you would a group of friends in a familiar setting.”
In the last issue of The Beacon we discussed the power and importance of speaking in your own voice and with your own style. To be truly effective as a speaker and a communicator, one needs to be authentic. And to be truly authentic, one needs to be confident. Confidence is borne out of being well-informed and well-practiced.
Clients of The Latimer Group often hear me discuss effective communication in terms of what we call the entire communication equation. There are three parts to this equation and taken together they form The Latimer Group Model, »Develop »Deliver »Secure. Effective communication requires working on each piece of the equation, and then integrating them together to achieve a powerful, seamless presentation that closes the sale or influences the audience.
In this issue we will discuss a corollary to The Latimer Group Model, with the focus almost entirely on the Development of your message.
When asked to discuss their own public speaking abilities, most clients of TLG immediately mention delivery problems – fear and lack of confidence almost always top the list. But in reality the biggest problem often does not begin with delivery skills. It begins with the content and the creation of your script. Regardless of your forum, be it a formal presentation in a crowded room or a face-to-face sales call, your ability to persuade will be dependent first on the organization of your message.
We use a preparation framework to help our clients transform their ideas, words or data into a presentation that will ultimately give them the greatest chance to influence or persuade their audience. We call this framework Content » Narrative » Performance.
Every good speech or presentation begins with raw material: business data, an important idea, a political platform, a product or service, or perhaps just a good story.
This is your Content. Within this raw material exists what you need and want to share with your audience. But the Content needs to be sculpted into something that can be transmitted to your audience in a manner that is accessible for them. In other words, you need them to understand and remember what you are saying. You need to narrate.
From your Content, you then begin to form your Narrative. This is the point where you turn your ideas or data into a format that you work from during the performance of your presentation. This is your script.
During the creation of your Narrative you will do several things: examine your audience to ensure that you are speaking to them and their needs; organize the data so that it is clear, simple and appropriate for the forum in which you will be speaking; and work to be true to your own voice and style. Your Narrative is the way you organize and present your idea or data, and it is the words you will use to communicate with your audience.
Your Narrative is also the point where you begin to establish your own voice. Starting from the same raw material, each individual should begin to tell the story in their own way. Only when doing so do you begin to achieve the authenticity we at TLG discuss so often.
The final piece of this framework is your Performance. Working from the script of your Narrative, this is the actual delivery of your speech or presentation – your body language, voice, gesture, and the integration of all the verbal and non-verbal tools at your disposal.
Any speech or presentation begins with your Content, and ends with your Performance, but your Narrative is your foundation, because it is where your ideas are filtered and translated into a form that will allow your audience to easily understand and remember your message. Only when your message can be understood and remembered do you have the possibility to persuade. And the goal of all speeches and presentations is, on some level, persuasion. Your Performance will be variable: some days you will perform better than others. But a strong Narrative will never desert you.
When we work with our clients on a presentation, we rarely focus on the Content. Our clients know far more about their business, their products or their services than we do. Our work is about framing and organizing the Content to make it compelling, easily accessible and understandable. Our work on the construction of their message is focused on the creation of their Narrative. We help our clients identify who will be receiving the information, which will then begin to dictate how to construct the Narrative and shape the Performance.
I have submitted to you previously that to be truly effective you need to focus on the entire communication equation of Developing, Delivering, and Securing your message. Taking this same concept even deeper, truly effective communication requires that you integrate your Content, Narrative and Performance so that the transmission of your ideas does not get lost between you and your audience.
Only when you have taken the time to correctly craft your Narrative, do you maximize your opportunity for a strong performance.
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