Monday, August 6, 2012

The True Purpose of Communication

Regardless of 'what' we are communicating...
Regardless of 'why' we are communicating...
There is only one true purpose for communicating.
The purpose of ALL communication is to influence.  
We may have a primary purpose for our communication of sharing information but we will always have a host of other secondary purposes, at least one of which is to influence our audience... about us. As you are speaking to anyone, about anything, you are also attempting to convince them that you are...
  • important
  • knowledgeable
  • desirable
  • capable
  • competent
  • confident
  • an expert
  • passionate
  • energetic
...and so on. Unfortunately, most of us focus only on the need to get the primary information out and don't focus on the delivery of any secondary messages, missing out on significant opportunities to craft the way that our audience thinks and feels about us and about the information we're sharing. 

What's important to note though, is that whether we craft those sub-textual messages or not we are still delivering them.  They just might not be saying what we'd like them to say.  Becoming a strong communicator does not mean that you have to learn to love giving speeches, but it does require you learn to present you and your message 'well', by learning to say what you mean in a way and tone that strengthens, rather than diminishes, that meaning.

For example: you can't simply 'tell' people you are passionate about your topic and expect to be believed, if you don't deliver your topic WITH passion.  people will need to hear it, to see it, in order to believe it.  In fact, you shouldn't have to 'tell' people that you are passionate about something. Telling them should be redundant because they should be able to see it and hear it, to feel it, for themselves.  It is much stronger for them to experience it.  That will be infinitely more memorable for them and will become part of their definition of 'you'.  

You are communicating sub-textually already.  Every time you say anything.  In order to begin using this messaging more consciously, to influence others to see and hear desirable messages, you must begin by being clear about what those messages are.  Ask yourself what you want your audience to think and feel about the information you are sharing with them and, perhaps, even what you would like them to do with it.  If you are ultimately building to a call-to-action your delivery of the information should help support that.  Additionally though, you need to also ask what you want your audience to think and feel about you.  How do you want to be seen?  What is the branded message you want to build and deliver?  

In order to strengthen these two main secondary-messages, to influence your audience to respond how you would like, use audiotape to 'play' with your method of delivery. The following are the top 3 vocal elements to listen for and to play with...
  • Speed.  Pay attention to the pace of your delivery.  Let it speed up a little to show excitement and passion, slow down a little to appear more thoughtful and thought-filled about your subject. Bear in mind that at all times you need to speak at a speed that your audience can listen without a lot of undo effort.
  • Volume.  Again, you need to speak at a volume level that can be heard easily, in whatever venue you are speaking in. Beyond that though, we naturally tend to speak a little louder than normal when we are excited about something and a little softer when we are more reflective or sharing something serious.
  • Variability.  Listen for the amount of variation present in your speech.  Too flat an affect will sound boring.  Your audience will find your topic boring and label you the same.  You want to have enough variation to hold the interest of your audience. This is your baseline.  Play from there. Add more variation and animation when story-telling, trying to add energy, build commitment and engagement, passion etc.  When communicating something serious and absolute, use a little less.  Don't go completely affect-less, but to make something sound like it's a done deal it will need to be delivered in a way that does not sound like it is open for discussion.  Less variation helps accomplish this.
Understanding how to use your secondary messaging systems is a key trait of all great communicators.  Not only does it help you to strengthen the credibility of your main message, but it serves to heighten your personal credibility too.

(Want a review of your videotaped delivery?  Contact us about setting up an online review session.

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