Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tips on How to Communicate Effectively - You don't speak German Cat to a Polish Mouse.

This is for all communicators. Politicians, preachers, teachers, business leaders, parents, corner shop owners, PHD recipients, mangers, and even for all the 14 year olds that are doing their first oral presentation!

I love to preach. Though most of all, I love to preach when people are listening. Further still, I love to preach, when people are listening, engaged and willing to respond to the message that is being shared. See one of my little pet hates, or frustrations, is when I communicate in a way that fails to evoke a response. I think to myself - why am I bothering? What is the point of communicating something that is not being heard?

Over the last 12 years I have spoken to various size crowds, and have learnt some things along the way. There are times I think to myself - 'YES! That was it! That really connected!' and of course there are other times I have said, 'WHY do I evennnn bother! Even I was falling asleep at one point!'

So, here are some tips on communication, or rather, tips on how to communicate effectively:
  • Know your audience - I have shared stories of Youth Groups with old people that fall on deaf ears, and I have spoken deep theological truths to young people who sit there and say, 'Huh?' The method of communication should change depending on your audience. What is interesting is that currently where I preach/communicate (Palmerston Salvation Army, NT, Australia), I am speaking to 0-90 year olds, with all the age ranges in between. I have learnt that it IS possible to engage everyone from the 7 year olds, to the youth, to the young adults, to the baby boomers, to the 80 year olds. It can be done!
  • Inspire your audience - Surely this is dead simple? I wish every communicator knew how to inspire their listeners! Sadly, many don't know! I don't always get it right, but let me add some thoughts to the mix. Whatever you are communicating, it should inspire; it is irrelevant at this point what the content of the message is, but what you are saying should positively grab the listeners ear and hook them in. On an aside note, one of the main reasons Australians are very despondent now about politics, is because every public speaker is dead boring!! Folks, you CAN make governmental policy exciting, if you think it through a little more, and attempt to engage the audience with the message.

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  • Be creative! Recently I spoke about the book of Philippians (from the Bible), and to intro the book, I had two people up the front to guess the answer to some questions. Now two of the questions were: "Who wrote the book of Philippians?" (Answer: Paul) "To what place was the book of Philippians written?" (Answer: Philippi) To help with the answers to the questions I had some products up the front to provide clues. The first clue, was a 'PAUL'S iced coffee' (A Northern Territory Australia thing). The second set of clues were a packet of Philidelphia Cheese and a Meat Pie (Phili - pie...). Anyway, the play on words was interactive, all age appropriate, and simply a creative way to engage people with what otherwise may have been a boring beginning to a series of a book of the Bible. Be creative! Don't send the listeners to sleep! "Good morning, today I am going to speak to you about the book of Philippians. This book was written by... zzzzzzzz...." I do want to add something here. Some think that being creative dilutes the importance and/or depth of the message being spoken, and I believe this to be a false paradigm. Creativity need not dilute the message, and can and usely does in fact strengthen the message, and strengthen the intellectual engagement with the content of what is spoken.
  • Ebb and Flow on Depth - This is something I have learnt about communication over the last few years, and this is most appropriate when you have a wide range of age groups present. Let me explain. In the context I am in, I have people in my congregation who are wanting to know the epistemological underpinnings of God's salvific purposes and others who are just there to hang out with their girlfriend. You understand the dilemma this poses for a communicator? Well, I think you need to tell a story and engage the crowd, then maybe go deeper for a minute, then come back out again and lighten the mood, then you might flow back into a deeper thought, and then you come back up for some lighter air. Do you understand what I mean? The depth of what you are communicating ebbs and flows. This is of course related to your context. If you are receiving a prestigous award for Physics, you may just go for a dive into the depth of scientific knowledge, and stay there for a while. BUT, I would say, that even with key note addresses like those, the audience is always appreciative of the occasional joke, or light-hearted remark. So I say again, ebb and flow on depth.
  • Understand the context - I have briefly mentioned this idea, and it is very important. I love to use humour to engage the crowd, as it lightens the mood and seems to engage the listeners. Humour is greatly effective, but is not always the best communication tool in the toolkit! Take for example, I have found it a nice challenge and a privelege when I am able to lead the ANZAC Day services in my region, where 700 people gather for a Dawn Service to pay their respects to defence force personnel, both past and present... Humour generally does NOT work in this context!! Understand the context, and use humour, stories, charts, graphs, YouTube, reports, flip charts, handouts, Powerpoint AS it is appropriate for your context. Can I say, the occasional short YouTube clip in a business meeting, can help break the ice and save everyone from business nausea.
  • Know your Content - It is much easier to communicate well, when you know your material. If you are preaching a sermon; know your Scripture back to front. If you are politician; know your policy back to front. A businessman? Know your core business back to front. An entrepreneur? Know your product back to front. A teacher? Know your curriculum back to front. You get the point. You should be spending time connecting your audience with your content, not spending your time playing brain games attempting to remember your content.
  • Speak to evoke a Response - If what you have to communicate is worthwhile, then surely you are hoping to create a response from those listening? Is it harsh to say that too many people communicate with no expectation of a response? Whether you are selling your business to investors, or preaching a sermon to a congregation, the ability to evoke a response is vital. Now, how do you do that? You speak stories/narratives that delve into the deepest parts of the human heart. If you are speaking to a crowd about vacuums it may be that the vacuum makes cleaning more efficient and thus allows you to spend more time with the family (the later being what creates an emotional response). Learning to communicate so as to evoke a positive response to the message being spoken, is something I want to learn more and more of in the future!
Thanks for letting me share some tips on communication. I will no doubt learn many more tips along the way and you may have some thoughts you want to post on to the site. 

1 comment:

  1. From the start of this site, I saw the difference each of one..the brilliant mind behind this blog was great! You amazed me and thanks for sharing this to us.. keep it up!


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