July 2005

Over the years, L’Epée Coaching & Consulting has seen a steady increase in the diversity of people attending its various activities. Since 1999, the number of nationalities represented at any given event has swelled from eleven to an impressive 35 this year. Not only does this kind of diversity provide an ideal environment to explore and understand cultural differences, but it also gives participants the unique opportunity of applying newly learned concepts to a rich cross-cultural environment.

Summer Programs

While I continue to be actively involved in performance coaching on both a personal and managerial level, I have, at the request of many, decided to broaden my services to include:

Smart Career AssessmentE-Coaching Program

I am happy to tell you that the first e-Coaching program will start on August 15th.

The aim of these activities is to help clients identify opportunities for improvement and find solutions within themselves and within the sphere of their professional responsibilities.

Calendar

July 11 WIB – Women in Business dinner at Mlynec
July 13 Toastmasters in Prague
July 21 Leadership Power Lunch: Conflicts & Emotions
July 27 Toastmasters in Prague
August 1 WIB – Women in Business dinner at Mlynec
August 3 Creative Self-Marketing WIB – Women in Business dinner at Mlynec
August 25 Leadership Power Lunch: Summary-Wrap Up

Communication Tip of The Month: The Power of Master Communicators

It’s been just over one year since the death of Ronald Reagan. When I first heard the news during last year’s D-Day celebrations, I couldn’t help but think of the last time I heard the former president deliver one of his inspirational speeches, a speech which managed to convince me, at the time a ‘frenchie’ living in New York, that regardless of his political views, he was indeed a brilliant communicator.

After seeing Ronnie’s inimitable charm and telegenic poise, his ease and confidence in front of the camera when introducing his vice-president as the Republican candidate for the 1988 US presidential election, I quickly realized that George H. W. Bush was no match for his charismatic predecessor.

It took the United States another four years to welcome another master communicator to the White House.

If Reagan had a style that inspired people to believe in a better America, Bill Clinton’s style was one that made people feel connected. We felt that he cared deeply about people as individuals. Despite having been impeached by the House of Representatives, Clinton was able to rely on the support of 46 million American voters in two elections who believed in his ability as their leader.

In the past 25 years, the world has watched two of the greatest communicators. But what lessons have we learned from them? Every day we are exposed to politicians, corporate executives, religious leaders and media figures who bombard us with rhetoric, statistics and philosophies, but don’t bother to take the time to really connect with us.

And it is not for lack of opportunity, presentation skills, training or seminars. The keys to delivering an effective speech are always the same:

  1. What is your purpose? Do you want to inform, persuade, inspire or motivate?
  2. Who is your audience? What do you have in common? What do they want to hear?
  3. How can you impact their lives? Are you speaking their language? Why are they listening? What gets their attention? What do they find convincing? What are their points of view and goals? What position do they hold?
  4. What do you have to say? What is your core message?
  5. Are you credible? How can you enhance your credibility?

The implementation of these basic principles varies greatly from culture to culture.

In Central and East Europe, speaking in public is a chance to show off one’s intelligence and knowledge. For the French, speaking in public is often an intellectual exercise where the speaker pays more attention to what he is saying than to the expectations of his audience. From an early age, Americans learn to stand up and address an audience and see any event, from family reunions, classroom presentations and social gatherings as a chance to hone their public speaking skills and improve on their self-confidence.

But regardless of how competent we are at public speaking, it still remains one of the most common fears. The emotions released by fear, anxiety, stress, are a clear signal that we have strong expectations from the situation.

Fear is often the expression of a conflict between personal criteria of success (what we desire) and the perception we have (not always realistic) of our own personal limits, the feeling of not being up to the task.

Learning how to structure a presentation and then deliver what you want people to see, hear and feel are crucial to mastering this fear and becoming a competent public speaker.

Before addressing an audience, you need to ask yourself three basic things:

  1. Is your speech focused? Can you put the primary message into one short sentence? If not, you’re not focused enough.
  2. Is your speech relevant? Are you communicating something that will matter to your audience?
  3. Is your speech creative? If your message isn’t new, have you presented it in a creative way that will grab and keep the attention of your audience?

Too often public speakers forget to focus on their audience and instead focus far too much on themselves. Remember that public speaking is not about showing other people how intelligent you are. Nor is it about impressing people with your own importance or appearance. The aim of any public speaking occasion is to make your audience understand what is being said while giving them the feeling that you want to connect with them. That’s why, instead of asking yourself “What will they think of me?” or “Will they like me?” ask, “What do my listeners want to receive? What do they want to hear?”

While visiting the United States last month, I was again witness to Bill Clinton’s magical communication skills. Because of the recent release of his autobiography “My Life”, the former president’s picture was on virtually every magazine cover while at the same time he was being interviewed by every major television channel. I remember reading one article in the Boston Sunday Globe written by someone who attended an event at which Clinton gave a keynote address. Even though the writer could barely see Clinton from the back of the room where she was sitting among 3000 other guests, she said that she felt as if he was talking only to her.

“It wasn’t mesmerizing. It was comfortable,” she wrote, adding, “That’s what I want from all my leaders, I want to feel comfortable with them and to be inspired by them”.

It’s worth bearing in mind that this sentiment can be aimed not only at politicians, but also at anyone working for a company and reporting to a boss. Surveys suggest that a growing number of employees want to know that their boss or manager really does care about them. They want to know that company executives are concerned about their well being as individuals, rather than simply their productivity at the office or on the assembly lines.

But how many bosses or managers make the effort to make that connection? To show that they really do care? It is easier to focus on numbers and profit margins than to learn how to make a personal connection.

Both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were able to use the warmth of their personality, the tone of their voice and the passion of their heart to inspire others and connect with their fellow citizens. Both could engender in the American people a sense of empowerment and the feeling that they were valued as human beings rather than simply votes.

Increasingly, people today need to know they are an important part of a bigger picture, a larger goal and above all, that they matter to the people they work for. While most of us do care about the company where we work and those we work with, how many of them actually know and feel it?

This article was written for the Prague Club Magazine and published in the September 2004 issue.

Yours truly,Karin