Manar Al Hinai: It’s not what you say, but how you say it
We have all been in that meeting where the presenter was static, spoke with a monotone voice and overloaded us with an entire book crammed into one PowerPoint slide.
My average workday consists of at least three meetings. Some meetings are conducted in a large group, while others are one-on-one. Some are so interesting that I barely notice two hours pass by, and others are so boring I daydream through the whole presentation.
I used to scold myself for daydreaming when I should be concentrating. But then I thought, “whose fault is it that I am not concentrating?” In my mind, it’s the speaker’s.
It is the speaker’s role to keep the audience engaged, especially in an age when our attention span is low – just five minutes, according to a study by the British bank Lloyds TSB. Numerous studies blame this on social media and viral videos under 10 minutes long that have changed the way our brains work and drastically affected our ability to focus.
I attended an effective communications seminar by John Garnett, the vice president of Pinnacle Performance Company, where he highlighted the drastic measures that miscommunication could have on a company and on a person.
Mr Garnett said that 25 per cent to 45 per cent of the average corporation’s annual budget is lost as a result of miscommunication, either between the employees, or between employees and clients.
Garnett went on to highlight that an average person has 61 meetings per month and that 37 per cent is the average percentage of our time spent in meetings. For those with more senior positions, this figure rises to 50 per cent.
Those figures alone emphasise the importance of effective communication. Why? Because miscommunication may not only lead to a tiresome meeting, but could result in us not getting what we want from that session or losing large sums of money. On the other hand, effective communication could result in healthy profits and success.
Leaders out there realise the importance effective communication skills can play in their lives. Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama are known to be great speakers, but they have both been taught to be so by communications experts.
So how do we communicate effectively to our audience? Communication should be tailored to the audience you will be facing. You need to adjust your speech or presentation to the audience you will be engaging with.
It is important to prepare well enough in advance to ensure your message is clear, concise and that you appear confident in front of the audience.
And confidence is perhaps the most important factor, because how will the audience trust what you are saying, or buy what you will be selling, if you do not seem to believe in it yourself?
No matter how important the facts you represent are, how you say them can be more important that the actual message. In the seminar, Mr Garnett highlighted a study by Albert Mehrabian that concluded 55 per cent of people pay more attention to how a person is saying something than what is actually being said.
It is unfortunate how sometimes organisations spend way too much time working on the product and its presentation, but not so much on communicating the message intended to the clients.
Communicating effectively is best achieved through multiple practice sessions, preparation and confidence. Investing in training ourselves to be good communicators might not cost as much as the product or message we want to deliver, but it could ensure us great returns if done effectively.
I’ll leave you with this thought – how many times did you regret the way you presented an idea to a client because you did not communicate effectively? Now think about the positive outcomes that could have emerged if you had.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer based in Abu Dhabi. Follow her on Twitter: @manar_alhinai
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Published: May 24, 2014 04:00 AM