guest post by Dale Sellers
I’ve been a public speaker for more than thirty years, and as a communicator, my greatest hope is that those in the audience understand the “meat” of my message. Nothing is more discouraging for me than to have a friend enthusiastically approach me after a heart-felt talk and the conversation go something like this:
Friend: “You were awesome today! I was really inspired by your message.”
My reply: “I’m so glad! What was your favorite part?”
Friend: “Well, I don’t really remember what you said. I just know it was great!”
Really?? I just poured my heart and soul out to a group that will leave cheered up and challenged: however, they won’t leave changed. Frustration continues to mount as I understand that my words went into the ears but not the hearts of my audience. This same frustration is also felt by the politician, teacher, coach and supervisor who “thought” the message was clear and directions were easy to grasp.
I first learned the potential for communication problems in a typing class during my senior year of high school. As we neared the end of the school year, my teacher and I struck up a conversation in class one day. During this conversation, she simply stated that communicating would be the biggest challenge we would face in our adult lives. I thought her comments were so crazy that I laughed at her. I stated, “Mrs. Rainey, almost everybody can talk.” Her reply still speaks to me today, “Dale, just because your’e talking doesn’t mean people understand what you are saying.”
Keeping Mrs. Rainey’s comments in mind, I want to offer you 6 helpful hints in communicating with your audience:
- Make it personal. No one wants to hear me recite material that I’ve read. And they certainly don’t want to hear me tell someone else’s story. Regardless of your topic, tell your audience why it matters to you and how it will make them better.
- Tell it with passion. Passionate people cause a reaction. They become a catalyst for change because they disrupt the atmosphere. Anyone coming into contact with a passionate person is either drawn to them or driven from them. Passion creates action.
- Be perceptive. Just because I have the platform doesn’t give me the right to be unaware of my surroundings. Be sensitive to the time of day, the temperature in the room, the comfort of the seats and the affairs of the day as you communicate.
- Prepare with your listeners in mind. I need to know who I’m speaking to and be aware of their needs. Some pre-talk research of my audience is very helpful. Listeners are much more in tune with me when I’m connecting with their felt needs.
- Don’t pile on. Sharing too much information is one of the biggest communication mistakes. It’s unproductive for me to continue pouring when someone’s capacity to receive is full. Here is a communicator’s proverb for us, “Always leave them wanting more.”
- Plan your exit. I need to determine how long I should speak and stick to it. One of the worst mistakes I can make is to miss the exit. Many great messages have lost their impact because the speaker talked too long.
Verizon had a popular commercial a few years ago, the serviceman would say, “Can you hear me now?” He then responded, “Good!” He then walked a little further and repeated the same thing. This is a great model for all communicators. Make sure that your audience can hear you now.
Dale Sellers has been in ministry for over 30 years serving in many leadership positions as well as working in the corporate field. He recently launched Dale Sellers Leadership Inc. to assist organizations in the areas of leadership, inspiration and evangelism. He has gained a wealth of knowledge from his three decades of experience. He and Gina have two married daughters and one who is a student at Clemson University. You can view his website at DaleSellersLeadership.com and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org