In today’s fast pace work environment, it is your leadership skills that will differentiate you from the pack. It is not enough to count on your past successes, seniority or title. Your success hinges upon your dynamic ability to gain trust, change people’s minds and motivate them till the job gets done, regardless of where you sit in the organisational chart.
How well you function as a leader is almost always linked to how well you communicate. Being an eloquent public speaker and having good command of the language helps, but only so much. You need to get really good at reconstructing, customising and presenting your ideas in a way which energises, seduces and inspires your team and your customers to want to share your beliefs and jump into action.
Therefore, it pays to prepare well to demonstrate that you have enthusiastically thought through the problems and issues and you are willing to be accountable for the solution and success.
The following 3 phases of Plan, Prepare and Deliver serve as a guideline.
Profile Your Audience
To persuade powerfully, plan your message with your audience’s experience in mind. Effective communicators create and maintain strong empathy with their audience. They are able to step into the shoes of others and view the matter from different perspectives. If you are presenting to senior executives for example, be concise and get to the high level conclusions fairly early to allow time for their questions.
Define Your Central Idea
Your central idea needs to be specific, clear and actionable e.g. “We need to create loyalty from our top 20% customers by collecting relevant information about them”. Also write down what you think the present status is, relative to the desired outcome. Next, define a clear ‘Call to Action’ plan i.e. are you asking for their vote, support, allocate resources or do tasks for you?
Get to the ‘Why’
Clarify why your message is important to the various stakeholders. This is often the hardest question to answer. When you think you got the answer, ask ‘so what?’. It is useful to think in terms of risks and what the business stands to lose. Repeat until you feel you fully comprehend the big picture. Test it against your central idea. Ask yourself, “Does it still make sense?” Getting to the ‘why’ serves as the common context which unites the audience’s interests and your own. It also ensures that you are not solving the wrong problems.
Research and Brainstorm
You can invite other inputs in doing this step. This is when you gather as much information as you can to support your assumptions and look for options and details to execute your solution.
Persuasion is often a process of appealing to people’s emotions. We don’t give up logic altogether but it is always the emotional connection that tips the scale. A leader’s job is to lead change and make people do things they are uncomfortable doing. Applying the principles of storytelling can help your message resonate with the audience and help them see possibilities they could not before. Find stories or metaphors you can share authentically to drive home your points.
Putting it all down
This step should be done last when you finally feel you have a good grasp of the flow of your message. You can now start to use PowerPoint software, if that is your chosen medium, but start with only the sections and headings to lock in the flow. As you refine each slide, use visuals, pictures and key words to guide your thoughts. Avoid wordy slides that the audience needs to make an effort read. This takes their attention away from your flow and pace.
Over and above your own practise and timing of the delivery, allocate time with someone you trust to review and critic your presentation. This is also a good time to list down anticipated resistance and difficult questions to further refine your message.
Sensing the Impact in Real Time
No matter how well you prepare, you cannot always accurately predict your audience reaction. So, be mentally prepared to calibrate your pace, tone and emphasis accordingly. It’s always a two-way communication and if you sense the audience is impatient you should keep your delivery concise and get to the Q&A earlier.
Enjoy the Ride
Above all, remember that persuading powerfully is about transfer of conviction and passion. You need to relax, enjoy the process and feel alive in order for your audience to catch the fire too.
Article by Julian Cheong, Senior Consultant of Training Edge International. She is a multiple winner of top sales awards for over achievement of quotas and clients satisfaction. She has been an effective and top performing direct sales and account management professional for the past 17 years in the exciting, competitive and complex sales environment of the IT software and consulting industry. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.trainingedgeasia.com.