Monthly Archives: November 2015

COMMUNICATION: Structure and not Script

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A STRUCTURE, NOT A SCRIPT

Communications need structure so speakers know where they are going and audience members know where they are being taken. Unlike a set script, a structure is a Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 6.33.29 pmframework that allows for more spontaneous delivery, which is required to make an emotional connection with the audience. The Decker grid provides that structure, with the cornerstones acting as the message’s foundation. The next steps in applying the grid are creating, clustering, and composing.

The creating part of the process comes through brainstorming ideas that support the cornerstones. There are two simple, yet important, rules to brainstorming:

  1. Resist the temptation to edit (just let ideas flow).
  2. Set a specific amount of time for brainstorming (stop when the time is up).

The purpose of brainstorming is to come up with ideas that support and convince the audience of the value and legitimacy of what has been presented in the cornerstone. Things to think about while generating these ideas include key insights, trends, success stories, opportunities, challenges, and solutions.

Once brainstorming is complete, the next step is clustering, or grouping the ideas by category. After the sticky notes have been clustered, the key idea in each group should be identified and labeled as a key point. Supporting points in the cluster should be laid out on the grid as subpoints.

The final step is composing, or editing and refining the final message. The Decker grid adheres to the principle of telling audience members ahead of time what will be shared, sharing it, and then telling them again.

The Decker grid applies the rule of threes: the notion that presenting anything in a group of three is the best way to make sure it is subconsciously recognized as a pattern and consequently internalized and remembered. For that reason, it is best to create messages that only have three key points. Additionally, when composing the final message it is important to “hook” audience members immediately with a powerful opening that gives them a reason to listen, and to end with a “bang” to ensure the message is memorable. The authors recommend integrating SHARPs throughout the presentation as a way to keep the audience engaged.

When it is time to present, the grid should be in front of the presenter as a guide, not a document to be read verbatim. The idea is for the grid to prompt a natural delivery that allows for real-time responsiveness.

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COMMUNICATION – 3Vs

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Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 6.27.48 pmPeople try to make connections with others through what they say; however, connections are better made through what they do. Behavior speaks louder than words, and no behavior creates a connection (and the trust that comes with it) better than warmth. Speakers should strive to convey warmth in every communication.

Speaker behaviors fall into one of three categories: verbal, vocal, or visual. These behaviors must match up for an audience to develop trust. If words and behaviors do not match, behaviors will be believed more than the words. There are two factors that can contribute to a disconnect between words and behaviors:

  1. An individual’s lack of self-awareness.
  2. The fact that behaviors become unconscious habits.

The good news is that people can become more self-aware and their habits can be changed. There are five behaviors of trust that create connections, convey energy that keeps people tuned in, and boost the speakers’ credibility–all while inspiring trust in others:

1. Eye communication. Speakers who do not make meaningful eye contact with their audiences will never make connections with them. This applies to interpersonal as well as group communications. Eye contact should last 7-10 seconds in one-to-one communications and 5 seconds in group situations.

2. Posture and movement. To connect with an audience, it is better for speakers to stand and move around rather than sit in one place.

3. Gestures and facial expression. Nervous gestures, such as jiggling change in a pocket, might serve to calm the speaker, but they can be distracting to the audience. However, gestures that emphasize what is being said draw the audience in. In terms of facial expressions, it is important to smile because a serious expression can distance the speaker from the audience. Additionally, expressions should match what is being said. Some speakers have serious expressions even when sharing good news, which is confusing to the audience.

4. Voice and vocal variety. Many presenters tend to adopt a very formal tone that is quite different from the more casual tone and vocal variety they display in their regular, day-to-day lives. The more expressive and authentic in vocal quality speakers can be, the more believable they will become. Pitch, pace, and volume are all contributing factors.

5. Pausing. Pauses are very powerful, but speakers are usually uncomfortable making them. Instead, they inject fillers, such as “uh,” “you know,” or “like.” Fillers are distracting and undermine credibility. Pauses allow the speaker to take the time to gather the next thought, breathe, relax, create a sense of drama, and eliminate filler words.

QUESTION TYPES : Can be used in Trainings

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Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 5.18.14 pmAlong with the different ways to structure questions, there are also different types of questions. Being a part of Training & Learning Vertical, I have been using in my Training Sessions. The two most basic are good questions and bad questions. While good questions are generally the goal, sometimes bad questions are needed to throw people off guard.

There are six different types of good questions:

1. Direct questions contain one interrogative, one noun or pronoun, and one verb. “Who are you?” is a direct question.
2. Control questions are questions that interrogators already know the answer to, but that are used to find out if someone is telling the truth.
3. Repeat questions allow the interrogator to get the same information in two different ways.
4. Persistent questions are similar to repeat questions in that they also check out a person’s story to determine truthfulness with multiple variations of the same questions.
5. Summary questions summarize a few things that people say in order to verify that they actually did say them.
6. Non-pertinent questions are used to mitigate tension or buy some time to review notes.

Conversely, there are four different types of bad questions:

1. Leading questions are questions that supply an answer or point someone toward the answer.
2. Negative questions such as “Is that not true?” are complicated and cause a lot of confusion.
3. Vague questions are unclear and not concise. These questions are often antagonizing or confusing to the subject.

4. Compound questions are typically two or more unrelated questions strung together.

STRIKE A CHORD – CONTENT DEVELOPMENT

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Careful content development with the goal of appealing to emotions will amplify connections between speakers and their audiences, inspiring audience members to action. SHARPs are emotion-triggering elements that should be woven into every communication to engage people’s emotions and inspire them. SHARPs include:

*Stories: Stories stir feelings and help people create visual images in their minds. Stories lead to action. To weave stories into their communications, speakers must first know the points they want to make and how their presentations will end. Stories should make listeners care and be willing to invest in what speakers are saying. By creating a curiosity gap, speakers can set the stage so the audience anticipates the connection between the information shared and the story. Lastly, speakers should draw from their own experiences as much as possible and tell personal stories. Being authentic and willing to share builds trust.

*Humor: People listen when others make them laugh. Well-placed, light-hearted, and self-deprecating humor engages audiences and heightens emotional connections. Humor can also diffuse uncomfortable situations, such as when there is a technical problem.

*Analogies: Analogies help people understand information they might not be familiar with or have knowledge about. Analogies “turn a light on” in people’s minds.

*References and quotes: References and quotes are one of the easiest ways to add emotional components to presentations. They can quickly bring topics to life in just a few words.

*Pictures and visuals: Pictures and visuals, including video clips, props, and even physical entertainment, serve to magnify emotional connections with the material being shared. To be effective, pictures and videos must follow the three Bs. They must be:

1. Big (to be seen).

2. Bold (to be quickly understood).

3. Basic (so they do not take away from the presentation itself).

EXPECT THE BEST

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Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 3.35.37 pmLeaders who expect the best from themselves and others are able to deal effectively with challenges and issues. Limiting negative beliefs and expectations about themselves increases productivity and innovation. However, positive attitude is not going to drive results without a reward. There needs to be an incentive to get the required results.

For instance, if leaders want someone to volunteer to be on their team, they should let the volunteer choose the assignment rather than be assigned a task. This way volunteers will feel they are in control of their desirable assignments rather than stuck with undesirable chores. Choices keep good productive volunteers on the team, and they will be excited to sign up again the next time a project comes around.

There are three tips for titleless leaders to get the best results from others:

  1. Raise the bar. Leaders adjust to the levels of demands made on them and those around them. Pushing to exceed standards, leaders will find other people want to be around those who raise the bar and aim for higher achievements.
  2. Expect more – get more. Leaders who expect more from others and themselves will get it. They can encourage followers to show their innovation and resourcefulness by bringing out the best in them.
  3. Decide on the thoughts that fill the day. Leaders can change their days simply by thinking about the outcome. For example, if they think they are problem solvers, then they will figure things out. If they think the work will be difficult, then it will be.

CREATING A COMMUNICATION EXPERIENCE

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Just as a great restaurant experience involves more than just a great meal, a great communication experience involves more than just a great message. Creating a great experience relies on using people’s emotions to create connections. Without connections, messages are lost. Emotionally connective communications are created two ways:
Through behaviors that convey warmth, caring, and interest in others.
Through content that is emotionally appealing, such as stories, analogies, and humor.
The Communicator’s Roadmap provides a way of mapping every communication experience along a four-quadrant matrix, with the goal of moving from self-centered to audience-centered communication and low emotional connection to high emotional connection communication.
The quadrants in the Communicator’s RoadmaScreen Shot 2015-08-12 at 6.00.34 pmp include:
Lower left: Inform
Upper left: Entertain
Lower right: Direct
Upper right: Inspire
All communications sit somewhere on the Communicator’s Roadmap, from the smallest interpersonal interaction to the most high-profile presentation.
Intentionality is the foundation for a great communication experience, ensuring all communications make an emotional connection with the audience. The Communicator’s Roadmap brings intentionality and emotion to the communication process, providing a method for creating a great experience every time. The ultimate goal is to intentionally shift all communications along an upward and to-the-right trajectory, making them more memorable, effective, and persuasive.
Being able to deliberately transition between the matrix components is a developable skill and is key to creating intentional communications that engage and inspire others. With work and attention, every communication can be more effective.

Making Faster Decisions

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Making Faster Decisions 

Our training with FSS team was quite in-siteful and sharing some tips for you reader. Many people labor over decisions because they are afraid of making the wrong choice. Others have overcome this challenge by using a six step system for decision-making.

Anubha's Session on Problem Solving Decision Making

Anubha’s Session on Problem Solving Decision Making

1. Evaluate the decision’s gravity. Objectively assess the magnitude of the situation. Important decisions related to business, family, health, or finances, require more time and effort.

2. Determine the timeframe for the decision. Set a reasonable deadline for the decision which provides adequate time to research different options.

3. Settle on two options. Too many options can be confusing. Finding two options that are best aligned with one’s personal or business goals will result in fast and effective decision making.

4. Does the decision feel intuitively correct? Before taking a lot of time to research options, check to see if the options feel intuitively correct. Zeller says that the best decisions make sense logically and feel good intuitively.

5. Research the top options. More data leads to greater confidence about decisions. While research is important, Zeller 20151028_125739-2warns to not become overwhelmed by a sea of data.

6. Determine the most efficient way to reach the desired result. Quantify what the decision will cost in terms of time, effort, and resources. Also look at the desired end result and determine which path is best for getting there.

EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION

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Prism Session on The three parts of high performance communication that need to be mastered are: content, delivery, and state.

CONTENTIMG_0449

To put it simply, content is the sum of the words, images, and stories used to deliver a message. While people deal with content in every communication and interaction, no matter how simple, most people make the same three mistakes when delivering content:

  1. Too much information.
  2. No relevance.
  3. No point.

PhotoGrid_1446219615796This results from speakers approaching the content from the wrong angle; it is also a result of talking about what they want to say as opposed to considering what the listener needs to know and feel. Therefore the content should focus on what the listener cares about the most. Focusing on what listeners care about should not be confused with telling listeners what they want to hear in order to flatter or manipulate them. Instead, speakers needs to craft their information in a way that starts with the listeners first and crafts a message that will be relevant to them.

PREPARATION

Because speaking with intent is such a critical aspect of mastering high performance communication, preparation is absolutely necessary. Without preparation, speakers are not communicating intentionally; instead, they are just thinking out loud. Therefore it is important for speakers to know what they are going to say and why they are going to say it.

The first step in preparation is to define the desired outcome. In an effective conversation there are three possible positive outcomes:

  1. The listeners have an insight that shifts their mind-sets.
  2. The listeners make a new decision because of the conversation.
  3. The listeners take action.

Screenshot_2015-10-30-21-06-56-2Speakers must decide which of these outcomes they hope to achieve and write it down. An outcome needs to be specific, as does the way one hopes to achieve the outcome. The authors suggest writing down not just the three things the listener needs to know but also the three things the listener needs to feel in order for the speaker to achieve the desired outcome. The message must be one that is directed at producing the emotions that the listener needs to experience in order for the message to achieve its purpose.

It is also necessary for speakers to understand why the listeners should care about what they are about to hear. This is the relevance of their communication. If a speaker is not presenting something of relevance to the audience, then no one is listening. The authors suggest that the speaker write down the three solid reasons why the listener should care about what he has to say.

Finally, the most critical piece of any conversation is the point. In preparations the speaker should consider his point and boil it down to one clear and memorable sentence.

ARCHITECTURE

Just like with any good movie or book, a speech must be comprised of three things:

  1. A ramp (the beginning)
  2. Discovery (the middle)
  3. Dessert (the end)

ramp is the first few sentences of the speech, and it is the point when the speaker needs to grab the listener’s attention. This is the part of the communication where relevance becomes very important. If the information is not relevant, then the purpose of the ramp has failed.

The authors provide a list of powerful strategies speakers can use when developing a ramp:

1. Open with the word “you.” This gives the speaker an immediate advantage because he is talking about the members of the audience’s favorite topic–themselves.

2. Use a powerful statistic. The authors also refer to this as a “sexy number.” Sexy numbers contain an element of surprise.

3. Ask a question.

4. Shock them.

5. Make a confession. Being vulnerable helps make the speaker relatable.

6. Use the word “imagine.” Imagine is an incredibly powerful word because it makes the communication interactive.

7. Tell an historical anecdote.

8. Tell a story. Stories help speakers establish human interest in their data.

Another important part of the beginning of a speech is the road map. A successful road map is brief and easy to understand. This is not the time to inundate the audience with a daunting run down of everything the speaker is about to say to them.

The road map should:

*Tell people how long the speaker is going to be speaking.

*Give a preview of the structure.

*Set up the rules of engagement. For example, asking the audience to hold their questions until the end.

Once the ramp and the road map have been established, it is time for the speaker to provide the listeners with knowledge. This is the middle of the speech or the discovery portion. The authors suggest that the speaker organize the discovery section into what they term the three points of delivery, or PoDs, for short.

Three is an effective number because the human brain handles information not in an endless stream but in meaningful chunks. Individuals cannot follow structure of chunks of seven or twelve. It is important that no matter how complex the topic may be, it is reduced to three clear points without dumbing down the material. Because the speaker already documented the three things the listeners needed to know when he was preparing the speech, the three PoDs should be easy to identify. The middle of a speech should also include a summary of the PoDs and a Q&A section before the speaker moves into the end, or the dessert.

The dessert is an important part of the speech because it allows the speaker to take back control, regardless of how difficult a Q&A section might have been. Because the last thing the audience hears will be the thing that stays with them longest, it is extremely important that the dessert produces a strong emotion. Again, the speaker should refer back to his preparation when he documented what a listener needed to feel.

TECHNIQUES

A term used to describe the quality of a message that sticks in people’s mind is its “stickiness.” In order to make something stick it must be simple, emotional, and vivid. The authors provide a variety of techniques designed to ensure that a speaker’s message is sticky. They are:

1. Stories: Using stories creates bonds, accelerates understanding, and demonstrates empathy.

2. Metaphors: Metaphors allow speakers to focus the listeners’ attention where they want it. They accelerate the speed of understanding, create feeling, and can simplify complex ideas.

3. Active Language: The most powerful language is fresh, concrete, and set at the appropriate level of intensity. Speakers should avoid trendy words or business acronyms, which can make speeches seem dated and stale.

4. Refrain: Because listeners will immediately forget 90 percent of what is said to them, a refrain becomes a powerful tool that allows the speaker to repeatedly weave the point of the speech throughout the entire discussion.

5. Q&A: Dialogue is necessary to create trust and rapport with the audience, and the Q&A is essentially opening up a speech to the audience, allowing dialogue to occur. It is also an opportunity for speakers to demonstrate their knowledge and trustworthiness.

DELIVERY

After spending valuable time developing the strategies and content of the speech, speakers have developed a lucid and relevant message. Now, the way in which that message is delivered becomes the next step. The authors state that great ideas are not enough and that speakers need to bring their ideas to life with warm and personal delivery. Speakers have a number of instruments available to them to achieve this type of delivery.

VOICE

While it is true that many people are uncomfortable with the sound of their own voices, the authors suggest that this may have less to do with the sound and more to do with the fact that their voices are revealing what they are not saying or their inner states. In an effort to be less transparent, speakers will often flatten out the emotion in their speech; unfortunately by doing this, they also inadvertently make themselves less interesting to the listeners.

The authors suggest that speakers spend time working on their voices, the same way an actor would, with a focus on breath and vocal variety.

Abdominal breathing, the type of breathing used by professional singers and actors to support their voices, is a useful tool for speakers to employ. By focusing on breathing deeply throughout a presentation speakers can avoid having their chests and throats tighten up.

While breathing deeply helps speakers keep their own emotions in check, the vocal variety employed throughout a speech is instrumental in conveying the emotions that speakers want their audiences to feel. Vocal variety is also important because varying the volume, pitch, and tempo of a speech ensures that the speech does not become monotone, which always results in a bored audience.

POSTURE AND MOVEMENT

When speaking to a crowd, the audience does not just judge what the speaker says or how he says it; the audience is also influenced by the speaker’s body language. Failing to consider posture and movement during a presentation could inadvertently derail or even contradict the message the speaker took so much time to craft.

The authors suggest that speakers carefully plan their entrances and, when possible, enter from stage right, because in Western culture people read from left to right; so when a speaker enters from the audience’s left they make a positive association.

After his entrance, the speaker should do three things before he begins to speak:

1. Stop. After entering the stage the speaker should stop and stand still in what the authors describe as heroic neutral, a relaxed stance characterized by a lifted sternum and arms loose at one’s sides. Stopping focuses the audience’s attention and gives the speaker a moment to settle in.

2. Breathe: By taking a breath, the speaker is preparing himself for the event. The breath in also brings brightness to the speaker’s eyes and prepares the voice to speak.

3. See: The speaker needs to also take a moment to really see his audience. This conveys the message that the speaker is happy to see them. Even if the light prevents audience members from being visible, the speaker should envision their faces in his mind.

Attention should also be given to the use of hands, since their position is one of the strongest indicators of body language. Hands held in front are seen as a defensive position; therefore, they should be down by the speaker’s sides when the speaker begins in the heroic natural stance. This allows the speaker to use them freely throughout the speech for emphasis.

In order to effectively use body language to their advantage, speakers should try and resist the urge to stand rooted behind a podium. This creates a barrier between the speaker and the audience and diminishes the connection. The speaker should, after he begins to feel comfortable, come out from behind the podium and move about the stage. It is important that when moving across the stage speakers do so with motivation, to avoid looking as though they are wandering about. The authors also suggest that all movement cease when speakers are delivering a “landing phrase,” a phrase that they want to land with emphasis.

In most cases, unless conveying a sad or troubling story, a smile is one of the best expressions a speaker can use. Eye connection is also a very important tool that allows speakers to establish a connection and convey interest and openness with the audience. When speaking to a crowd, speakers should avoid scanning the crowd; instead, they should make what Meyers and Nix refer to as “connected conversations.” In connected conversations, speakers deliver sections of their speeches to individuals. If it is a large audience, the speaker can divide the audience into quadrants and move randomly from quadrant to quadrant when isolating the individuals to speak to.

STATE

Just as a speaker needs to prepare his content and delivery, the speaker’s state is equally important when delivering an effective speech. A speaker’s state is comprised of the body, the minds-eye, and personal beliefs.

The body and the language it conveys are as important, if not more, than the content of what the speaker is sharing. But the speaker’s state of mind can also be a powerful influence on the speaker’s success. Speakers should choose what to focus on and consider this the mind’s eye. The mind’s eye should not wander about randomly, but should focus on questions that have powerful presuppositions in them. Instead of asking himself, “What will go wrong in this speech?” the speaker should shift his mind’s eye to a reframed question, such as, “What can I gain from this speech?”

It is human nature to focus on the negative rather than the positive, and this tendency can impact an individual’s beliefs about himself. Speakers should examine the beliefs they have about themselves before going out to deliver a speech, since people’s belief systems are nothing more than self-fulfilling prophecies. If a speaker believes that he is not smart enough, engaging enough, or educated enough to hold his audience’s attention, then he will not. It is important for the speaker to reframe his beliefs to enable him to succeed.

HIGH-STAKES SITUATIONS

Sometimes there are situations when one-on-one conversations or communications are critical. These are moments when one’s reputation may be on the line or one may be trying to land an important client.

One high-stakes situation is the conversation that one would like to avoid having at all costs. The author’s call this a “courageous conversation” since it requires courage. They recommend that there are times when one must “put the fish on the table,” or address the problem at hand in a direct and courageous way. Sometimes, it is the only way to move toward a resolution because one’s courage and willingness to address something can help build a bond. A bond is absolutely critical in any courageous conversation because without it, one loses the power to influence the other person.

Another high-stakes situation is crisis communication. Because crises are unavoidable, everyone will have to deal with one eventually. There is a clear formula people can use when communicating to interested parties after a crisis unfolds:

  1. Detail what is known for sure.
  2. Explain what is still unknown.
  3. As a leader, the person speaking should explain what he or she thinks about the situation.
  4. Tell people what they can do to help.
  5. Explain what they can count on.
  6. Create hope by explaining how the struggle they are facing will make them stronger.

PRESENCE

Becoming one’s authentic self will allow one’s full leadership presence to show. Developing presence is a process of subtraction–taking away those things that are obstructing the authentic self. Just as a speech delivered with intent can be most powerful, a life lived with intent can be equally as powerful. When individuals determine what they are passionate about in life, this provides them with a goal to which they are emotionally connected. To help determine this, the authors suggest that individuals create what is called “a personal vision statement”–a statement about the qualities of character by which a person commits to live.