Malcolm is the Head of a Corporate Giving program. He is smart and highly articulate. Loves language and uses it with laser agility. Better yet, Malcolm speaks with great passion about the mission of his business. And why wouldn’t he? He gets to support great causes for a living!
Malcolm is, in many ways, the ultimate High-Potential Rockstar.
I listen to Malcolm talk - and I want to retreat.
His smarts overwhelm me. His brilliance feels like an assault. There is little room for me to breathe.
My bosses all tell me I should speak at a 4th-grade level, Malcolm confesses to me sheepishly.
I cringe a little when I hear that sort of guidance. Don’t ever dumb down your brilliance, please. Don’t reduce complexity by becoming overly simplistic.
And yet, I understand Malcolm’s superiors. Our job is to have communication impact when we speak.
Malcolm has diminished impact. The brilliance of his ideas and strategic thinking is in battle with his delivery style.
And poor delivery will kill a great idea. Every time.
"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place."George Bernard Shaw
Over the last 3 months, I have had the pleasure of coaching a slew of early-career Rockstars. I usually coach CEOs and very seasoned C-Suite leaders. It has been great fun for me to coach future-generation leaders.
As different as each person is from the next, here’s a common thread I see: There is a tendency to over-talk. Speak without having a clear sense of where a comment is going. Not knowing when to stop.
A tendency, quite simply, to fall into a stream of over-communication.
A year ago Gartner, the world’s preeminent advisory company for global executives, published its annual communications advice for the upcoming year. (Gartner, Top Communication Challenges for 2020, 12/3/19) A Top-3 concern was reducing communication overwhelm. 94% of the respondents in Gartner’s research stated that they habitually feel overwhelmed by the information they receive.
Do you want to make sure that YOU don’t overwhelm others with your verbal communications? Do you want your personal communication impact to last?
Here are 4 simple speaking adjustments that will elevate your personal impact by 50%. Instantly. These are the Basics. Working with my early-career Rockstars reminds me of just how powerful these Basics are.
Stick to one idea per sentence. Have lots of ideas? Awesome. Start a new sentence for every new idea or message. Run-on sentences are horrid in written documents. They’re an even stronger impact-killer in verbal communication. A period and a pause are wonderful things – they bring your message into focus.
Tip: The longer your sentences are, the more your main message gets hidden, and the harder I have to work to gleam your message. Don’t make me work that hard!
Your pause lets me know that a thought is complete. It gives me a moment to absorb your idea. And it allows me to tune into what you’re about to say next. If you don’t pause for 3 sentences in a row, I have already tuned you out – you are simply blabbering!
Tip: Even when you keep your sentences short AND do not pause, you are depriving me of the chance to absorb the meaning of what you just said. Allow your message to settle in the pause.
"Poor delivery will kill a great idea. Every time."Achim Nowak
Upspeak is the nasty habit of raising your voice at the end of a sentence – even though you’re not asking a question. No upspeak please unless you truly ARE asking a question. When your inflection goes down on the final word, I get a sense that you mean what you say and that what you say matters.
And while you’re at it, avoid vocal fry, as well. Vocal fry describes the habit of drawing out ends of words and sentences with a low, creaky voice. Upspeak and vocal fry can come across as uncertainty and lack of conviction. I’m making a point – but I’m not sure I fully believe it! I’m making a point – but please go ahead and approve it for me!
Tip: Practice the power of a declarative ending. Drop the voice. It reassures me that I can trust you.
In case of doubt, speak slower than your instinct wants you to. We often conflate a quick pace and enthusiasm. Expressed enthusiasm is almost always a wonderful thing. Couple it with a rapid-fire pace, however, and you run the risk of becoming the person that rattles on and on. Observe folks who are comfortable with their sense of personal power. They claim the moment. They take their time. They don’t rush.
Tip: Do you wish to project confidence and authority? Speaking really quickly does the opposite. Claim the moment when you speak, Slow down.
Julie talks too much. You’ve likely said that about Julie or the Steves, the Ellens and Julios in your world. You’ve also likely said it with a bit of disdain and frustration.
Chances are, Julie doesn’t mean to talk too much. Julie DOES wish to have impact.
Don’t be Julie. Make the 4 simple adjustments outlined above.
Here’s what these simple adjustments will do for you. They bring you into focus. They allow me to hear your message clearly. And even when you don’t feel very authoritative inside, these adjustments help you project a sense that you are.
4 little adjustments. 50%. The impact is that dramatic.