Are you talking to me?

Leading conversations with your best ideas has the power to bring hope and gives a sense of purpose. Your presence and conviction boost the engagement of your team. However, the way most people prepare to speak prevents them from connecting with those who listen. We hear them talk, but we don’t feel they are speaking to us. They speak but don’t connect.

Colleagues and communication experts have told you to stick to the facts when expressing your ideas. They advised you to focus first on what idea to talk about then gather facts and condense to get to the point.

This is all fine but, while it helps you organising your thoughts, it tends to promote descriptions, explanations, lists of items, and reasoning. When sharing what you prepared, you sound like a professor mapping out the world, describing all there is to consider. When promoting a solution, you sound like a marketing leaflet that speaks. Your words are all about your content, not about your audience.

What you need to consider is this:

Organizing your thoughts, facts, figures, action points etc. are the base of the work. It is not enough to create a conversation.

You need an extra step to turn ideas into conversation.

Why does it matter?

People don’t join the meeting for your ideas, they gather to connect with each other and with you.
Meetings are not information moments, they are social events.

Gathering means putting aside important work and taking the time to reconnect, to synchronize with each other. Connecting happens through behaviours: we send signals to connect. Connecting enhances focus, creates perspective and vivid representations in our mind. Connecting with others has proved to create better memories for the messages we get. Connecting well when you speak amplifies your messages.

Leaders whose conversations you enjoy the most talk to you, not at you. They address you directly and frequently. For instance, they use ‘We’, they use ‘You’. For example, they reconnect by reminding people of the point where they left off previously. For instance, they connect by framing the expectations for the conversation.

The leaders you admire are not gifted nor were they born charismatic. They have learned to craft their words, ensuring that their language signals that they address their audience. Connecting is not only their intention, connecting is not just about selecting relevant messages for a specific audience, connecting shows in their behaviours and words.

When I guide my clients in their presentation preparation, we clearly distinguish between (1) drafting for the flow of ideas and (2) redrafting to adjust language for specific effects, namely connecting with the audience.

How frequently did you use ‘We’ and ‘You’ in your latest presentation? How often did you ask real questions to the audience? How much interaction had you planned and rehearsed in advance?

Leadership happens in conversations. Leadership starts with ideas but serves people only if they take action. Building the skills to connect with people when speaking is paramount for your leadership to materialize. You can learn to do that.

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