Why is it some communicators can hold an audience in rapt attention while others barely keep us interested? Why are some talks or seminars so compelling they don’t simply entertain and inspire us, they move us to immediate and consistent action? What makes us compelling communicators?
Here are 7 practices to get you started:
- Create a learning culture. Instead of a knowledge culture I encourage leaders to create a learning culture. Define the problem, issue or provocative question you plan address. Be as clear and specific as possible. Is it possible to eradicate poverty in our city in the next 5 years? Provoke the listener to face that issue or problem. Why MUST they listen?
- Cause the audience to engage. Ask them to synthesize information, analyze ideas, evaluate the information. It is not enough they simply recall your talking points. Clever acronyms and alliteration might help stimulate short-term memory, but it will do little to promote transformational learning. It is not enough to help the poor – we must change the way the poor view themselves. Right now list the 3 most critical factors that foster a “poverty” mindset.
- Be compelling not simply clear. Gripping stories, video clips, case studies, dialogue and creative props are all means for doing this. Creative communication must accompany clear communication. Clear and boring means no communication at all. For the next 5 minutes we will watch a documentary about on local homeless shelter. Take notes, discerning the strategy of this shelter, how effective it is, and what local citizens might do to partner with these leaders.
- Connect key action steps with audience emotions. Capture hearts early in a talk. Move the heart as you engage the mind. What does the listener need to feel or experience that will move them to act? I want you to imagine what a 10-hour day of manual labor would feel like without access to coffee, food and water. What struggles might you have: emotional, physical and intellectual ?
- Challenge the audience to work. Listeners must own their learning experience. Urge them to grapple with how they will continue to learn beyond these few moments. Lets break into groups and create a process for evaluating the plight of the poor in our city. Where would you start and how will you continue to gain data throughout the week?
- Keep people learning after you finish speaking. Instead of hearing, “Nice talk!” wouldn’t you rather stimulate a learning experience that transcends your message? Take time each day this week to review responses on our web site to the questions we are asking. And then draft action steps with your team.
- Create diverse learning experiences. Stories, dialogue, role play, group work, monologue, video, case studies, live site visits, cross-cultural experiences, trips, debates, games, on-the-job feedback, props, and design-your-own-experience are a few ways to stimulate engagement. Many in the audience need to learn in ways beyond mere words. We are asking each of you to spend 2 hours this week/month at a homeless shelter, food pantry, or job center, volunteering your time or participating in the experience. Keep a journal of thoughts and observations, and any transformational moments you experience. Process theses with colleagues and see what applies to your mission.
Great leaders must become great communicators. Don’t settle for mere words of inspiration – create a culture of transformation. One that produces lasting results.