Today, we have so many options when we choose to communicate with others. The people we work with are overwhelmed by all the messages they receive from email, texts, social media, and a variety of more traditional approaches including phone, advertising, and snail mail. We are fighting to get a small part of our stakeholder’s attention.
Recent studies show the number closing in on 30,000 messages people receive each and every day. People’s attention spans have gone from several minutes to 140 characters or less. Don’t believe me, try this. Go to your favorite restaurant and just spend five minutes watching the people who are dining with you. Do you get their undivided attention, and if so, for how long? So how do you build a connection with critical people in your lives?
Here’s the good news, if you’re able to develop a strong communication strategy, you can dominate your field. I’ve spent the past 27 years observing leaders sharing their ideas with others. I’ve personally interviewed over 16,000 leaders in my consulting career. Many of these leaders have become many of the most influential people on the planet. I thought it might be helpful to share a communication strategy that many use to become successful. When you interview enough professionals you see patterns that the individuals might miss because they are too close to the discussion. This process is easy to follow and should help you increase the impact of your communications, no matter what form of communication you are using.
My four step process includes:
Now let’s briefly go through each step of the process and share with you how they relate. Today, we talk about the first step, research, and then complete the other three steps next week.
The first step is research. Many senior leaders I work with are surprised by how much time I spend on research before presenting my ideas. I try to spend at least an hour before presenting my ideas. The more important the message, the more time I spend on research. Research includes knowing some of the following things about the people I will be talking with:
- Who I will be talking with?
- What’s their background?
- Why are they are interested?
- What’s their agenda?
- What outcome do they want?
- What’s their role in the decision making process?
- How quickly will they make their decision?
Now that I have a basic understanding of who I will be talking with, I can then begin to research my attendees and the topic. My clients expect me to understand their unique situation and who they are when I work with them. If you’re presenting to an individual or team you should invest time researching their personal backgrounds. I use Google to help me do this quickly. If my client is an executive, I create Google alerts for their name, their company, and their industry.
Many of my clients have been with me for many years. I create files to keep their information so I can pull it quickly to review before I get on the phone or meet with them. When I was an executive, I had a file on most of my leadership team, my partners, potential clients and the key individuals on their teams. I spent about several hours a month keeping the files updated; today LinkedIn can help you shorten your time investment. Once you do it, the information is always there. You spend some time updating, but beyond that, you know the concerns of the people you talk to and can connect in a meaningful way.
This is one of the secrets of success I learned from President George H.W. Bush; he kept 4 X 6 cards on many of the people he met so he could always reconnect with others in a personal way. President Clinton did it from memory and started doing it when he was 21. It’s amazing to see how these two men reconnect with others.
Now that I know who I might be presenting to, I then begin trying to determine what their agenda is. If I can align the presentation with the agenda of the people attending I’m more likely to get a positive result out of our discussions. With so many people competing for your listener’s attention, the more personal I can make the presentation, the more likely I get the results we need. Even when you’re in an adversarial position your preparation pays big dividends. When negotiating employee agreements, the more you know the better prepared you are to develop a winning solution.
Next Thursday, we share how your initial research can provide you a winning hand during your presentation. We discuss several ideas Steve Jobs used in researching a topic that he used to become one of the most influential CEOs on the planet. On Tuesday we will discuss how serving leaders can build an effective advisory board. See you Tuesday.
If you want to know more about how to present your ideas and build a more innovative and collaborative organization you should check out Delivering High Performance Collaboration Conference .