The Most Important Not-so-secret Secret to Successful Communication

 In Presence

Girl playing the violin. Hand of a girl and a fiddle.OK. It’s not a secret. But there is a mystery to it, and today I have an answer.

Vince Lombardi is credited with saying, “The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you’re willing to pay the price. “ Lombardi is also credited with saying, “You play like you practice.” In the world of music, we are also told to practice. To quote composer Igor Stravinsky (in a post on the blog Six Minutes, called “Eight Faulty Speaker Assumptions”), “Practice. If you don’t, someone else will.”

So why is it, therefore, that so many business presenters and speakers don’t practice before important communications?

Is it fear?  Lack of time? Laziness?

Dan and Chip Heath are the authors of Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard. They deal with change management, which is another area that requires practice and perseverance. They stress that “To succeed on the path to change, you have to eliminate ambiguity.” AHA! This may be exactly why speakers don’t practice. People who don’t know what they are trying to accomplish, or who don’t know what to do to change, or for whom the end result is too vague will be more reluctant to practice because they are more reluctant to change. They may want to be better speakers, but the ambiguity creates a barrier to success. But the not-so-secret secret is that you have to practice to improve. Remember?  You play like you practice.

If you are one of those people, it’s time to get clear about what you need to improve and how to do it. Below are some possible areas for improvement. If you really don’t know what would help you become a better speaker,  record yourself,  and/or get another person’s opinion. Decide what needs improvement. Eliminate the ambiguity. Even if you find out that you need something else later or that you need more than one of these areas improved, you can get started on something. Then click on the links to look at the related material for how and what to practice. Practice every day, for at least as much time as you will be presenting (a 20-minute talk requires 20 minutes of practice daily.)

Possible outcomes from practicing:

When you do practice, apply the twelve tips below (more ideas from change management) to create the change you envision.

Adapted from 12 Tips to lead change, by Joel Zeff

  • Be patient and positive in your tone of voice. To yourself.
  • Take a breath.
  • Find the joy in it.
  • Ask questions.  If something is bothering you, speak up.
  • Be in the moment.
  • Look for what’s working as well as what is not.
  • Create an opportunity for yourself to use what you are learning.
  • Be a better listener. Learn from others. Develop your ears.
  • Be flexible to change.
  • Write down your frustrations and put them aside.  Look at them later.
  • Stay in the game.
  • Don’t be afraid to make a mistake.

Good practicing!! Let me know how it goes!


ID 113258865 © Yauhen Akulich |

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