Failure to Communicate

I got skills.

Public speaking is inherent in the HR role: Open Enrollment, All Hands mtgs., Policy Changes, etc. If you're in HR you will address large groups. Get ready.

Thus I've had plenty of opportunity to speak in my work, in HR groups like SHRM, as well as in other forums in business, church and civic groups and I've enjoyed them. Really. I have never lacked for confidence.

Periodically though I like to do a thorough self-examination of my assumed skills, eg., public speaking. In a critical review earlier this year what I found was this:

I'm not as good as I think

Ego is a wonderful thing often driving us to do things we were not sure of. But misguided it can let us pretend we have skills we really don't. I'm not into self-delusion nor in being average at anything I do. I want to be the best I can be. Not “the best”, but the best I can be.

And on an comparive basis my speaking skill was less than it could be. That couldn't continue.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

So in preparation for a talk earlier this year I decided to start at the beginning.

What does it take to be a good speaker? The following isn't my list of personal faults but the toplines necessary to capture an audience.

Here then are the keys for being a better speaker:

  • Its Not About You – the sooner you realize the message is what counts the better you will be. You are simply a channel: the audience does not need to know your bio, your background, how many years you've been in the field, etc., etc. Start right in with the message. The message is what counts. Get out of its way
  • PowerPoints Kill – ditch the slides if you want to communicate. If you must use them cut them down. How many? Less than ten. And please limit your words – no more than three lines of five words apiece. Your audience can't read more. And bullet points: forget them. Audiences hate them
  • What's The Story? – thousands of years before words were written we communicated by story and story remains the compelling vehicle to capture our imagination and drive thought. A few facts along the way are fine but alone they won't drive the story line. People want to know the arc of the story. Find it and share it. And strip away anything that doesn't support it
  • Call To Action – somewhere along the way there must a call to action, a need for people to rethink something. What are they being asked to do? The story tells them the “why” – the call to action is the “what”. What do you want people to consider? To do? A talk without a call to action is a ship without a rudder. As Bob Dylan said, you're ain't going nowhere.

HR will require you to speak. Doing so effectively will make all the difference.

Anything less would be a failure to communicate.



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