How a Presidential Campaign Can Make Your Speaking More Effective
Mark and Lynn were to Marilyn, a financial planner, speaking about retirement planning issues. After initial pleasantries, Marilyn said to the attendees, “I know that one of your biggest concerns is retirement. We have a process where we gather all of your data, discuss each of your long-term objectives, and then analyze your accounts to determine their relevance to your overall goals. Then we present you with a plan that ensures you aren’t burdened with the concern of depleting your assets too soon.”
For the next hour, Marilyn shared more information about her firm, retirement and investment concepts, and an occasional question tossed in. Although they got the gist of what Marilyn was telling them, Mark and Lynn didn’t feel as if she truly talking to them. She was speaking in a language that didn’t always make sense. She seemed competent enough, they just didn’t feel that she was the right planner for them.
Unfortunately, this type of interaction occurs in speaking situations of every type. So often, the presenter speaks in a language that either doesn’t connect with or make sense to the listener.
The consequences of this can be costly to all involved. In the example above, if Mark and Lynn don’t hire a financial planner, they may not create the financial future they desire. If Marilyn doesn’t learn how to communicate better, she might not keep her job. Her company might not survive if their team of planners can’t explain the benefits of what they do in a clear and concise manner. It’s a snowball effect in which everyone involved loses.
What is the solution? Simplify your communication. In 1992, James Carville had a big problem – he was attempting to help Bill Clinton become elected President of the United States. Clinton’s message wasn’t connecting with voters because it was convoluted and touched on too many issues.
After discussing this problem with his campaign team, Carville hit on an idea. The economy was not doing well. They created a message that captured the essence of the problem – ‘It’s the Economy, Stupid!’ It was simple and straight to the point. Whether or not you agreed with Clinton politically, you had to admire his team’s ability to get to the heart of an issue that resonated with voters.
Begging forgiveness from Carville, I’ve borrowed their idea to drive home the point of this post. When we communicate with others, It’s the Simplicity, Stupid!
It’s easy to fall into a trap of trying to impress others with our knowledge, or show them how much better we are than the other guy. When we attempt to speak in our language, it’s easy to forget that the listener often has no idea what we’re talking about. When we do this, true communication is virtually impossible.
In the scene above, Marilyn the financial planner would have greatly enhanced her chances of being hired by her seminar attendees if she said something like:
“We understand common concerns about retirement. If you’re like many people we work with, you’re worried that you could run out of money, or become dependent on your children, is that correct?”
Many heads would likely nod in agreement.
“What we do is fix that. We answer the question, ‘At what point can we have a worry-free retirement?’
Those words appeal to listeners because they cut to the heart of the matter and address their specific worries. In other words, it’s a simple message.
Being simple doesn’t equate to ‘dumbing down,’ by the way. In a world where we’re bombarded by literally thousands of messages each day, it’s the simple ones that grab your attention and keep it.
The next time you speak, resist the temptation to impress with your knowledge and accolades. Speak in the language of your listener, and they’ll thank you for remembering, ‘It’s the Simplicity.’
And that’s not stupid.
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