Friday, September 09, 2005

Guest Blogger Friday - Bert Decker

This week our “Guest Blogger Friday” contributor is Bert Decker, author of “You’ve Got To Be Believed To Be Heard” and NBC’s TODAY show communications expert. Bert is founder of Decker Communications, Inc. and is also a professional speaker, entrepreneur, coach and consultant, and a blogger. See his blog and website for more great communications tips and resources.

The Five Key Principles To Great Communicating
By Bert Decker

Thanks Thom for the additional forum. Now I’ll have to put this “guest column” on my own blog – but you saw it here first. And I appreciate all the great tips and blogging help you’ve given me.

I thought I’d try to get a lot of info in a short space, so I’m going to try to summarize what I’ve found to be the Five Key Principles to Great Communicating:

1. The Spoken Word is More Powerful than the Written Word.

To all you writers (and readers) out there, this might seem heresy – but hold on. The written word is GREAT for information. People can read five times faster than they you can speak. The written word is great for reference. And we are taught the written word, and how to write. But it isn’t the most powerful medium if you want to create action.

The power is in the spoken word – in our voice and eyes and movement. We involve all the senses, and our very powerful unconscious brain in our messages. We are the message. In speaking you can reach the emotions more immediately and more forcefully. You can reach The First Brain in speaking, not as easily in reading. (See “Blink” and “You’ve Got To Be Believed To Be Heard.”

Imagine being moved and inspired by Martin Luther King’s “I’ve Got A Dream” speech, or John F. Kennedy’s “We’ll put a man on the moon” speech. Being filled with the sounds and words and energy. Then imagine reading the words by themselves. They words alone would not live in infamy.

2. Always Have a Point Of View. Always.

No more rambling data dumps if you want impact in your business presentations. I’ve seen and heard thousands of speeches, messages and presentations, and I’d guess about 80% of them do not have a focus. It should be the first thing.

Anytime you are speaking, including on the phone or even sending an email, ask yourself, “What’s the point?” What’s The Big Idea. Why is it important for someone to listen to you. If anyone can be listening to you and say, “So what?” – you do not have a strong Point Of View.

We have a preparation “triangle” we teach people who want to be influential, and it sets three keys:

What’s my point!
What action do I want people to take!
What’s the benefit in it for them!

If you will just set those points even before you start creating your arguments and telling your stories, you will have the great benefit of always being on target.

3. Communication Rides Energy

When you are speaking, think of yourself as a horse, and your message is riding to the destination of influence. Or if you want another metaphor – you are the computer, and your message is the software that delivers those folders and files. If you have a clunky old computer with weak chips, it doesn’t matter how great your files are – they won’t get there very fast.

There are what I call the Behavioral Big Six – habits of our voice and body that have nothing to do with the content we speak, but everything to do with the impact that we have. There are subtleties and nuances of each, and it is worth finding out your ‘energy’ habits through feedback in these areas:

Eye Communication – the most important, at least five (5) seconds
Posture and Movement – move, don’t stand behind lecterns
Dress and Appearance – “thin slicing” or the first three seconds
Gestures and the Smile – animation reflects our enthusiasm and passion
Voice and Vocal Variety – beware the monotone voice
Pausing – rid of non-words and the Power of the Pause

4. Visual Impact Dominates Personal Impact

We often give inconsistent messages. When we do, the visual is what is believed, not the sound of the voice, or even the content. Professor Albert Mehrabian’s classic study showed this in what people trusted in these three areas when there were inconstancies:

Verbal: 7%
Vocal: 38%
Visual: 55%

And why not. We are overwhelmingly visually dominant. The nerve pathways from the eyes to the brain are 25 times larger than the next biggest – the auditory. There’s much more here – suffice it to say this is why video feedback is so dramatically powerful. Observed behavior changes.

5. Authenticity Is the Core of Communicating

Speaking effectively is a learned skill, it is not a born talent. We are all born with certain capabilities, just like some athletes are born faster, taller, stronger, etc. But the great athletes are those that are coached and practice. They learn – by getting out of their own way.

Speaking and communicating well is not a slick thing. But it is learned. The process is much like peeling the onion. All we have to do is get out of our own way – remove barriers between ourselves and our audiences.

The problem is fear often blocks us. Or thinking that speaking is just a different form of writing, and that if I say the words people will ‘get’ them. Not so. Speaking is as much a behavioral process as an intellectual process. We need to be enthused and passionate about our subject. We need to be authentic.

For more details and information, see

Thank you to Bert for being our third "Guest Blogger". I hope that everyone is enjoying these informative posts each week. Tune in next time for another great "Guest Blogger Friday".

Have A Great Day

Thom Singer

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