The Art of Communicating Effectively: Don’t wing it!

Could YOU cope with 600 accusing questions coming your way over 2 days in Congress whilst the camera is rolling, and most of the world’s media watching? Mark Zuckerberg, founder of beleaguered Facebook, endured this very ordeal last week. How would YOU prepare for such a challenge? Or an even a less gruelling one – say, three minutes in front of a camera, or giving a 20 minute presentation?

Kate Chacksfield is a highly effective media coach and trainer who is inspiring Curious PR’s clients to communicate brilliantly during media interviews, ensuring they feel confident and in control. Kate’s positivity and enthusiasm is based on her many years as a producer, news reporter and TV science and technology correspondent for the BBC, including Tomorrow’s World, The 6 o’clock news and Newsround – and Sky News. We are super proud to be working with her, and hear her views, such as these…

In his recent, candid memoir former Prime Minister Gordon Brown reveals he’s learnt that it’s not what you say, but how you say it that counts… “I fell short in communicating my ideas. I failed to rally the nation,” said Brown about his defeat in the 2010 general election. In his autobiography, “My Life, Our Times”, reviewed here in the Financial Times, he admits he was “not an ideal fit” for today’s “touchy-feely” politics, and that his inability to be conspicuously demonstrative was a root cause of the result that handed David Cameron power. The initial charm of being promoted as Not Flash, Just Gordon by his marketing team had worn off by the time the polling booths opened.

The ability to persuade, to convince, to force your audience to listen to you, is at the heart of being a strong speaker. The key to success is neither in the wording of the speech, the detail of the research, nor the cleverness of the writer.  It is, quite simply, the ability to perform: the body language and tone of the voice. Natural actors take to this more easily than the great majority, who have to practice. Endlessly. It is estimated that to achieve as good a performance as possible, a speaker should rehearse their presentation 24 times.

It takes work to put on a show. If you want your presentation to be relaxed and off-the-cuff, or ‘I’ll just perch on the edge of this desk and chat’, then even more preparation is required. Here are a few tips:-

LET’S GET PHYSICAL

Consider ALL 5:

  1. Good eye contact
  2. Smiles and other facial expressions
  3. A strong handshake and positive gesticulations
  4. Walk with confidence and stand tall
  5. Only talk whilst looking at your audience

Effective voice tone, meanwhile, is created with a dynamic delivery (yet not necessarily loud) and an often over-looked technique: pauses….

AND…. PAUSE

 “No word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause” - Mark Twain

Not talking for a moment is incredibly powerful. The temptation may be to rattle through a presentation, but those skilled at speaking build in their pauses at the end of sentences and paragraphs, enabling them to look down at their notes and the audience to process what’s just been said. Also, for emphasis before an important point.

DON’T BANG ON! 

Bill Clinton is acknowledged as a powerful speaker but it wasn’t always so. Decades ago, while relatively unknown, Clinton was scheduled to speak for 15 minutes, but continued for more than 30. The biggest applause reportedly came at 32 minutes, when he said, “And in conclusion…”. But the former president persevered and became a charismatic presenter, using pauses and body language to great effect.

With powerful body language and vocals mastered, the audience has no choice but to be engaged, and will finally be able to listen and hear to the speaker’s message. A trick Gordon Brown acknowledges he was unable to master.

- Kate Chacksfield