Communication. It’s one of those things we all do. It is essential to human interaction. If you want an idea to gain acceptance, you must communicate it. If you are leading a team, you need to communicate effectively to them. If you want to build a relationship, you must communicate. It’s a large part of what makes us human.
Yet so many people struggle with communication, especially at work or in high-profile settings. Is the ability to move people, to engage and connect with them something that a few people are born with while the rest of us need to struggle? Why do some people seem to be able to effortlessly move an audience? What is the magic element that makes it work?
"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place." - George Bernard Shaw
Great communicators investigate their audiences. They spend time being curious about and watching the people in front of them. Rather than simply throwing data at their listeners, they observe the impact of their words upon others and make subtle shifts to bring their message home. This skill doesn’t happen by accident. While some may have a greater innate aptitude for it, nearly every effective communicator spends time practicing until the ability to connect becomes muscle memory. When that occurs, their communication looks effortless.
So, the question now becomes, how do you practice? That is what communication work at The TAI Group is all about. We put you into the experience of connecting with your audience, let you try things out, discover what is or is not working, and try again. Rather than giving lots of conceptual material and expecting that to make you into a great communicator, we take an approach from the performing arts. We practice. Your behavior will change if you experience options and practice them. We create muscle memory, so that you are not having to think about connecting and investigating, but doing it as second nature.
In our Communicating with Power & Presence workshop, for instance, we spend the entire first day working with you on one piece. You are prompted to write a short piece that is not a business presentation. We then spend the day concentrating on how you can stand in front of a group of people, focus on them, connect with them and have a powerful impact upon them. We work with you to shift your attention to how they are doing and what they are getting, rather than how well you are doing (a great cure for stage fright, by the way!) We help you to become aware of your own physicality and your breathing. And you get to see, in real time, what effect you are creating. Putting you in the experience of both speaker and audience member gives you a deep understanding of what audiences want and how you can provide it.
Once you have had a chance to embody these principles on the first day, we then make the connection to your work. Using our Crafting Tool, we help you to re-create a business presentation so that it supports your ability to connect with and move an audience. We ask you to clarify what you want to cause in your listeners, what they need to hear from you and what your message is. We put that together with what you’ve learned on Day One, and now we practice again. By connecting your original experience with your actual presentations, you now can apply what you’ve learned to the world outside. And it is that application that shifts the entire piece of learning from a “nice experience” to something that truly makes a difference in your day-to-day communication.
You can communicate without leading, but you can’t lead without communicating.
This same approach holds true in our individual work and customized programs. In every workshop, every one-on-one coaching session or corporate retreat, we want you to step into the experience first. Then you will practice and make it your own, moving it from the idea into execution and setting you up to be successful as you apply it in your daily life.
At TAI, we have two sayings we believe are relevant to you as a leader and a communicator. The first follows from what we’ve just written – Practice makes permanent. Continue to hone your communication and crafting skills to experience more powerful results. That is how you make the learning stick.
The second saying relates to you as a leader – You can communicate without leading, but you can’t lead without communicating. If you want to be an effective leader, you need to be a powerful communicator. Join in the practice.
About the Author: Twila Thompson
Twila is a founding partner of The TAI Group and has been with TAI for 30 years. Her coaching experience covers a wide range of industries with clients at the highest corporate levels, and she has also created ground-breaking programs for international charity and not-for-profit organizations. Twila holds a B.A. in Theater from Grinnell College.