THE COM­MU­NI­CA­TOR Sum­mer: time to tone up your com­mu­ni­ca­tions skills

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Business & Appointments - - FRONT PAGE -

AMER­ICA’S an­nual cel­e­bra­tion of bar­be­cue, aka Me­mo­rial Day as you all likely know it, was held this past Mon­day in the na­tion of my birth. Friends and fam­ily posted about a mil­lion photos of burg­ers, hot dogs and other as­sorted meat prod­ucts grilled out­side in their an­nual tribute herald­ing the tra­di­tional, if not tech­ni­cal, ar­rival of sum­mer in a swirl of char­coal bri­quette smoke.

The im­pend­ing ar­rival of sum­mer also her­alds about a mil­lion ads re­mind­ing you that it’s time to get your soft, win­try body into swim­suit shape.

I pon­dered those ad­ver­tise­ments and my un­for­tu­nate lack of said sea­sonal prepa­ra­tion in the ton­ing depart­ment as I strolled along the beach dur­ing a sun­rise last week in Ali­cante, Spain.

As pic­turesque as that de­scrip­tion is (about the Mediter­ranean beach, not my­self), I wasn’t there on early holiday. Ali­cante hap­pens to be the home of the Euro­pean Union In­tel­lec­tual Prop­erty Of­fices (EUPIO), pro­vid­ing trade­mark regis­tra­tion and ser­vices to the EU mar­ket of over 500 mil­lion con­sumers. I was there to pro­vide story-telling train­ing to staff.

It was a great lo­ca­tion and a great op­por­tu­nity — not only to work with a ded­i­cated group of in­ter­na­tional EUPIO pro­fes­sion­als, but also to connect and re­con­nect with a cou­ple of equally ded­i­cated and in­spi­ra­tional co-train­ers. I hadn’t been briefed on who the other “ex­ter­nal speak­ers” would be. As it turned out, it was in Ir­ish affair.

The multi-day conference in­tro­duced me to Mark Downey, an Ire­land-based certified vo­cal coach and pres­ence ex­pert who worked with the group to de­velop those skills and also directed them on teleprompter-pre­sent­ing tech­niques.

I was also hap­pily reac­quainted with the con­ge­nial Or­laith Car­mody, for­mer broad­caster and RTE board mem­ber who pro­vides com­mu­ni­ca­tions train­ing along with her hus­band and Dragons’ Den investor Gavin Duffy. I first met Or­laith three years ago when I spoke at Dublin’s Pen­du­lum Sum­mit. But we hadn’t seen each other since. You might think that bring­ing three train­ers into the same event would leave lit­tle room for oxy­gen. Each of us clam­our­ing for the spot­light while keep­ing our so-called trade secrets close to the vest. But you would be wrong.

Sure, we each have our own personal styles and sets of pro­fes­sional ex­pe­ri­ences to draw from — but we truly rev­elled in the chance to re­in­force our teach­ings be­fore the group by us­ing the oth­ers’ com­ple­men­tary ap­proaches.

Get­ting out­side val­i­da­tion of what you are al­ready do­ing is a pow­er­ful tool. With their ex­pressed per­mis­sion, I am now de­lighted to share a few com­mu­ni­ca­tion tips from Or­laith and Mark. your au­di­ence first: Or­laith re­minded the group that be­fore pre­par­ing any pre­sen­ta­tion, it is es­sen­tial to first consider the agenda, per­spec­tive and points of view of your au­di­ence. She then stressed the im­por­tance of defin­ing your goal. What do you want your au­di­ence to ac­tu­ally do with your pre­sen­ta­tion? Thirdly, she ex­plained that only af­ter you have con­sid­ered these first two items, should you then un­der­take the craft­ing of your mes­sage.

Sound fa­mil­iar? I hope so. I have writ­ten be­fore how I de­ploy the Stan­ford Grad­u­ate School of Busi­ness method­ol­ogy of AIM – “Au­di­ence, In­tent, Mes­sage.” A dif­fer­ent mid­dle word, but the same dang goal, er, in­tent.

for clar­ity, cred­i­bil­ity and colour: Or­laith’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion rec­om­men­da­tion is vivid and mem­o­rable. First, can your au­di­ence even un­der­stand you? Next, do you have con­tent that demon­strates your author­ity of the topic prop­erly? And fi­nally, are you lay­er­ing on de­tail or flair or sto­ries that make your pre­sen­ta­tion in­ter­est­ing, or dare I say it, “en­ter­tain­ing?”

These are strate­gies that any truly en­gag­ing speaker will­ingly deals with. I reg­u­larly urge my clients to strive to bal­ance their “cred­i­bil­ity” with their “warmth”. But hon­estly, as an un­apolo­getic fan of al­lit­er­a­tion, I adore Or­laith’s catchier de­scrip­tion of what ev­ery per­son should con­vey dur­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion.

a pow­er­ful personal pres­ence: Mark has honed his meth­ods through a rig­or­ous com­bi­na­tion of ex­pe­ri­ences in gov­ern­ment, busi­ness and the arts — par­tic­u­larly mu­sic and theatre. He has also worked for years with renowned voice and act­ing coach Patsy Ro­den­burg, whom Forbes mag­a­zine re­ports has col­lab­o­rated with “many great ac­tors and di­rec­tors, in­clud­ing Judi Dench, Ian Mckel­lan… and Mike Ni­chols”. She is the au­thor of sev­eral books on ways to har­ness your voice and be­come more charis­matic.

Mark em­pha­sised her 2008 book, The Se­cond Cir­cle. In­spired by it, he de­liv­ered a dy­namic key­note in which he de­scribed and demon­strated how each of us can trans­form our­selves through breath­ing, voice and pos­ture ex­er­cises.

We can evolve past hu­man­ity’s “first cir­cle” of in­tro­ver­sion and self-doubt or pull back away from the neg­a­tive and ag­gres­sive “third cir­cle” of boast­ing and nar­cis­sism to­ward a more pos­i­tive, self-af­firm­ing and egal­i­tar­ian style em­bod­ied in the “se­cond cir­cle”.

more car­ing: Mark de­scribed the se­cond cir­cle as a “place of hu­mil­ity, be­cause you care.” He was joined in cho­rus with Or­laith’s and my calls to put oth­ers first in or­der to bet­ter com­mu­ni­cate and connect. It’s not counter-in­tu­itive, folks. It’s re­ally the only way to reach mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial so­lu­tions or agree­ments or un­der­stand­ing on any busi­ness is­sue.

I de­scribed us as three evan­ge­lists pros­e­ly­tiz­ing. We’re all preach­ing the same “good news”. That is: when you’re ton­ing up your body for this sum­mer, we en­cour­age you to tone up your com­mu­ni­ca­tions too.

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