By Debbie Taylor, Director, Training & Client Enablement, and Lauren Jones, Specialist, Global Training & Certification
Glazed-over looks? People checking their phones while you’re speaking? Not ideal! Follow NMI’s seven-step guide to transform your communication skills and deliver a message that sticks.
- Connect first
How soon do you start drifting off in meetings? New research has found that the average British person has an attention span of just 14 minutes. Grip your audience from the get-go by starting your meetings or presentations differently. Open with a question or a surprising statistic, and create an environment where your audience is hooked.
- Get over yourself! Be memorable
There is huge value in building an emotional connection with your audience. It helps your message stick. Overall, adults only make eye contact 30 to 60 percent of the time. However, we should be making eye contact 60 to 70 percent of the time to create an emotional connection. The most effective way to connect is to be yourself and let them see the real you. That said, it’s all about the audience, so don’t get fixated on how you’re coming across. Focus on your audience and their needs, and you will become instantly more memorable.
- More than words
Using your voice in different ways drastically impacts the power of your message. Use staccato, raise your voice, save your quiet voice for the wisest words. Pause…for effect. Don’t underestimate body language—it makes up 55 percent of our total communication—and highlight your keywords with specific gestures to enhance their impact.
- The power of stories
Messages delivered as stories can be up to 22 times more memorable than just facts. Start yours strong by setting the scene. Any memorable story needs a character; give them a name and describe them physically and emotionally. Include a challenge or conflict to draw in the audience. Be brief and cut weak language, as it dilutes your message. Use your space, changing position to create energy. Finally, when you’re done, don’t run away! Maintain your position, hold eye contact and let your audience absorb your final words.
- …Just one more thing
Questioning can be the most powerful tool at your disposal. Short, open questions like, “Why is that?” “In what way?” and “How so?” encourage your audience to dig deeper, elaborate and work out their own solutions. The investigative Columbo technique, whereby you repeat one or two words back as a question, enables your audience to identify discrepancies in their thinking. If you’re on the receiving end, don’t be afraid of silence. Allow yourself time to think and edit before you speak. This way, your answer will be concise and deliberate. Put simply, say six words instead of 600.
- Engage the audience
Hands up if you’ve ever fallen asleep in a presentation? To avoid your audience doing this to you, try conducting a body poll by asking them to vote by standing up, raising an arm or balancing on one leg. Work your way around the room, getting each audience member to give a one-word answer to a question or topic you have set. Make sure you state who will start, what direction it will take and who will finish so the audience members are actively waiting their turns and considering their answers. Ask your audience to pair up and work on a task. Incorporate props, using whatever item you can find and your imagination to make your message come to life. Give a job, picking an audience member to take notes, count votes, give feedback. These simple, yet effective, activities increase audience participation and allow you to continually collect data.
- Open with impact, close with action
The law of primacy and recency is the observation that people will remember the first and last things you say. Capturing your audience’s attention with strong opening and closing statements ensures maximum impact. Open by describing a scene, or ask the audience to imagine something: “Picture a world where….” Or, start with a string of related words: “Technology, data, math…this is what drives modern marketing.” Try an audience engagement technique, like the body poll, to kick things off.
A relevant call to action can wow your audience and create a lasting impression. Use the SNAP technique: make it Simple, something they can do Now, that they can share and report on, so they are Accountable, and make it Personal.
With these simple techniques, you can unlock your potential to create energy, build connections, keep your audience hooked, drive the conversation forward and inspire.