Why experts need to be expert communicators
Robin Kermode provides six steps to ensure you connect with your group, every time
As a trainer, mentor or coach you are clearly an expert and you have vital information to impart. You've planned your training session, seminar or talk to within an inch of its life and now you're ready to deliver. You're feeling good - and boy, are they in for a treat!
But there's a potential problem brewing here. All communication requires equal status between both parties. No-one likes being talked down to. (And being talked up to - giving too much reverence to your audience - doesn't work either.)
Of course, as a trainer, mentor or coach, you will probably have more knowledge of the subject than your group does but remember this is just more knowledge in your particular area. They almost certainly will know much more about other areas than you do. So let's not get too big for our boots. No-one likes a show-off.
Ultimately all you need to do is to connect with your audience so that they want to listen to you. And equal status is a very good place to start.
Here are six simple steps to ensure you connect with your group, every time:
1. Equal status
The training session should not be about making you look good. Always make it about your audience. What do they want to know or learn? How will what you say, improve their lives? Put yourself in their shoes and make them feel special. People who say 'LOOK AT ME' are usually boring because they make it all about them but if you make it all about your group, then you will have equal status.
2. Stay present
An actor playing Hamlet saying the famous lines 'To be or not to be?' has to imagine that it's the first time he has ever said those words. He can't say: "To be or not to be? That is the question. In fact, it's the same question I asked myself at the matinée this afternoon."
Your group don't want to feel you've given this message a hundred times before. Keep it spontaneous. Change the order in which you do things. Keep yourself on your toes. If you stay present, so will your audience.
3. Use your own voice
If we can learn to use our 'own' voice, rather than using a pompous 'public speaking' voice, we will feel that we are authentically being ourselves and so will our audience. Often this is a simple as not speaking too loudly at the audience. Try to sound relaxed.
4. Eye contact
The secret of eye contact is to hold one thought with one person and one thought with another. But many people 'de-focus' when speaking to a group, almost deliberately making the group appear blurred, and treating them as one big entity.
We should try to connect directly with each person through eye contact at some stage of the training session. One thought here, one thought there, all around the room: so that by the end everyone feels that you've been talking specifically to them. And in a larger hall, where we can't actually see everyone clearly, direct one thought to one area and one thought to another.
Even in a smaller boardroom situation, where you can see their faces very clearly, speakers are tempted to 'sweep' the table with their eyes. Better to have one thought with one person and one thought with another. No-one wants to feel they are just part of the crowd. Every member of your group wants to feel special.
Running a training session should feel like a conversation. It may well be that you speak for half an hour without interruption but it should still feel like a two-way exchange. You must allow the group time to process the information you give. Their 'silent listening' is their part of the conversation.
If we told our friends about a recent holiday and they didn't interrupt us for five minutes, it would have effectively become a five minute 'speech'. Their 'silent listening' was their part of the conversation. We wouldn't have been talking at them, we would have been having a conversation with them.
6. Don't take yourself too seriously
When we listen to someone who takes themselves too seriously, we can't wait for them to slip on the proverbial banana skin. As Billy Connolly said, 'Never trust a man who, when left alone in a room with a tea cosy, doesn't try it on.' A little self-deprecating humour goes a long way.
So the next time you deliver a training session, seminar or talk remember:
If you have a conversation with your group - they will listen.
If you give them equal status - they will feel valued.
And if you use your own voice - they will believe you.
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