HOW TO ENSURE YOUR MESSAGE GETS ACROSS
By ALVIN DAN
Why won’t you listen to what I have to say?” I can’t even remember how many times I’ve had this thought go through my mind when I was trying to say something important. Yet I found myself in the same situation over and over again, until I realised that I was only aiming to speak my mind, and not aiming to be heard by people.
Of course this is a process that is learned through time. My hope is that young readers will be able to learn something from this, and move from just “speaking” to “being heard” in no time
As a leader, speaking is inevitable. Speaking to our own usual followers is easy, but when it’s a new crowd, there are typically a few things that should be done to establish credibility.
Know your audience
The first rule of engagement is to always know who you’re talking to, because the key to being heard is to know who is listening, and that is almost half the battle won.
Tailor what you want to say according to what they are interested in, then hit off from there. There’s a saying that goes, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care, and a little care truthfully does go a long way.
For example if you are speaking to an audience with a different language background, it would help to learn some words from that language, like “hello”, “thank you” and “goodbye”.
They may seem like simple things, but the effect it produces when you’re delivering a speech is immense. And while you are learning the language, also look for things that are a norm in their culture, like their food, drink or certain traditions. My personal rule is, the more personal the talk, the more care is needed to engage who you’re talking to.
Know it yourself
The next key to credibility is knowing what you’re talking about from the inside out. Imagine talking about a certain type of food but never having tasted it before, imagine explaining a music piece that you’ve never had the chance to listen to.
Credibility is putting ourselves at a place where we will experience a certain thing fully, and then explain it to someone else who may or may not have done the same. At the end of the day, no one will be able to believe in what you say, until you yourself believe it. Practise what you preach, and in time, your actions will speak louder than your words.
Know how to say it
According to an article by Meredith Melnick, called Want to Be Heard? Try Changing the Way You Talk, besides just knowing who you’re talking to, and what you’re talking about, there’s also certain things to take note about how we talk.
A good speaker knows the speed at which he needs to speak to help others catch what he is saying. Three-and-a-half words per second is ideal. Someone who speaks too quickly can be seen as untrustworthy, or like a person with another agenda, or like a person trying to sell you a product.
Melnick also adds that those who speak perfectly fluently tend to turn listeners off, as they are perceived to be reading from a paper and not engaging with people, while those who pause in between speeches and have “um”s or “uh”s are more believable to listeners.
Focus, Focus, Focus
Something to also think about when we speak is to make sure that people are able to receive the message with minimal distractions. Because even if what you’re saying is credible, a person that is distracted won’t be able to hear you clearly, or even if they do, the message may not get across.
Most of you would have played this game at least once in your life, where someone will whisper a sentence to one person, and the message gets passed on, and the last person in that group would have to tell the whole team what he heard.
The sentence could start as “Billy went to the beach to find the whale” and would probably end up as “Will he went to reach fine will”, and the whole team would of course have a good laugh about it.
The main point of that game is to illustrate that we can get easily distracted. It could be a TV being switched on, music from a radio, people passing by, or even a recurring thought in our head about what we would like to eat for our next meal.
Essentially, anything can be a distraction if we allow it to be. This means that when we’re speaking, we need to set the focus for the person to pay their full attention to the messenger and the message in order for it to get across.
Practice makes perfect
The only way to truly build your credibility as a speaker is to put ourselves forward and take up opportunities as a speaker in events, or a key person in client meetings.
This sink or swim mentality can be stressful, but those who take up the challenge, with some mistakes along the way, will find their confidence and credibility being boosted exponentially.
Leaders also need not despise small opportunities, because sometimes these can be blessings in disguise.
We get to build up our confidence under lesser pressure, and when build trust with people because we performed well in that, they would definitely be willing to recommend us to speak to larger crowds.
By then, we would already have built up a certain level of confidence and credibility for us to talk to a larger crowd, and that would open up more opportunities to speak elsewhere.
To sum it all up, credibility is a long-term process, and similar to trust, all it takes is one instance where there is evidence of you not being credible, and you would have to start over from square one.
Therefore, as a leader you must always remember that our person is the embodiment of the message that we’re sharing. Our character, our knowledge about the product or the topic, our personal experience and our values, all these comes into play in building our personal credibility.
When all these come into alignment every time we are given the opportunity to speak, then an increase in our credibility would only be natural.