Listening is critical to creating dialogue
By Neil Kuvin
What’s so important about gaining more perceptive listening skills? When you listen attentively for real content of the discussion and then focus your specific follow-up questions to concentrate on the things that really, really matter, you find yourself in a respectful, intelligent and especially responsive conversation.
Unfortunately, each side in the discussion often is so anxious to get their perspective heard, they both don’t wait before they interrupt or their point is muddy because they may have gone down a side, dirt road. No matter what, if you really want a conversation (which usually means everyone is heard and allowed to speak) begin your comments by crediting the others with “sensitive, thoughtful, critical points. However, I have a slightly different perspective.” It’s critical at this point to assure him/her that you understand their opinion. Assure the other person that they were understood. Probe. Ask for further confirmation of facts.
Remember, rarely does any one of us have the best, right answer. Be prepared to be convinced that other positions have benefits and rewards too. That’s where your patience, listening skills, and understanding come in. I think that’s called an “open mind.” The advantages are in “them” knowing that you heard it correctly — that you are listening to them. First, you will please the others in this conversation that you appear to truly sense and get the picture they maybe couldn’t get others to understand, or at the very least, acknowledge; Second, there is a motivation for them to listen a little more closely to your ideas and perhaps accept some of them on the way to finding a solution to the “problem” that satisfies many in the discussion.
Wow. Imagine that. Actually crossing the aisle and without “politics,” finding satisfactory solutions.
Ivan Seidenberg was the former and original chair and CEO of Verizon Communications Inc. He also headed several communications’ companies during his career. At one of those companies, he knew expenses needed to be slashed to survive. Well surprise! He ran into stubborn opposition from defiant division heads relentless in their objections to his ideas. Seidenberg, while listening to and acknowledging the differing perspectives, knew that the cuts couldn’t be accomplished without cooperation and some measure of acceptance. Bottom line is he succeeded in getting the opposing sides to accept some compromising on certain issues like hours, overtime, vacations and sick leave, while still reducing work force by a substantial number that got him a lot closer to proposed budget cuts. Genius? Not really. Just patient, intelligent, respectful dialogue, with everybody having their listening ears on.
It appears to me that there are four basic elements required for true, honest conversation to take place. Courage, respect and most importantly, recognition (not necessarily acceptance) of another point of view. And lastly, patience to steer the conversation to a destination that satisfies (almost) everyone in the conversation.
I happen to like Tim Tebow. Always have. He’s got a winner’s mentality and he shamelessly gives credit to his God first, his teammates next and then maybe he admits some ability.
Does the Denver Broncos quarterback have what it takes to be successful at the professional level?
Seven wins and two losses as a starting quarterback so far this season. Tebow’s proven to be successful——even while being inconsistent and unconventional. Many observers of the game, particularly former professionals, question his technical abilities. For now, we’ll leave the question about his quarterbacking skills up to those who have a much deeper understanding of things like the option offense, throwing styles, and pocket skills. However, it’s clear that Tim Tebow has plenty of what it takes to succeed in one area where so many professional athletes fail—managing a high-pressure media interview.
Last month, CBS Sports aired an interview between Tim Tebow and television analyst, former Bronco, and NFL Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe—a man who has criticized Tebow in the past. He has called Tebow a “$10 million project” not up to the task of leading an NFL offense.
Sharpe went into the interview to aggressively and unapologetically hammered home his point of view. The former Bronco may have worn a fashionable suit and put on a fierce game face, but Tebow had all the right moves and delivered a textbook performance.
Here’s what you can learn from Tim Tebow about managing a tough media interview:
Take control from the start
Tebow didn’t just leave his response to Sharpe’s introductory comments at, “My pleasure.” He took the opportunity to set the tone by being gracious, humble, and establishing common ground with his interviewer.
Contrast this to Sharpe, who soon ceded all control by asking Tebow, the subject of the interview, “Can I say something honestly?” Tebow gladly granted permission.
Tim Tebow has drawn tough criticism throughout his collegiate and professional playing careers. Right now, with a solid winning record so far, and some of the most thrilling last-minute heroics in pro football this year, he has every license to say that he has proved detractors wrong.
Yet not once in the interview with Sharpe did Tebow criticize a coach, a team member, or a single skeptic. Instead, he went as far as to say that he had a lot of work to do to overcome “doubters” and “critics.”
Twice, Sharpe asked Tebow whether he felt the Denver Broncos organization was behind him. Twice Tebow delivered the same answer, saying that he is thankful and feels blessed to play for the team.
He clearly had prepared; he knew the question was coming and the answer he would deliver. Most important, he didn’t feel that he owed Sharpe a different answer, even if Sharpe had asked the same question in a different way.
Maintain message discipline
What Tim Tebow was trying to communicate came through consistently and clearly. For him, this season is first and foremost about the team and winning games. Personally, it’s also about his growth and improving as a player and a leader.
Almost every answer he brought back to these core messages. He also kept his responses concise to avoid rambling answers and filling empty space that would have diluted the strength of his points.
Finish on a high note
So much of a viewer’s overall perception of an interview comes from how it wraps up. Whether it’s a one-on-one, an editorial board, or a news conference, you always want to finish an interview with your message and on your terms.
Tebow did this beautifully in this interview. He said he wants to score touchdowns and win, but he also said he wants to be a role model and make a difference in people’s lives and the world. He stayed on message and, with some wise and generous help from Sharpe, even managed to leave the interview on an emotional peak.
The debate around Tim Tebow’s ability to be a successful NFL quarterback on the field will no doubt continue. But off the field, when the lights are on and the cameras are rolling, it’s clear that there is more to Tebow than your average megastar athlete.
DO Make Sure Your Public Speaking Presentation And Take-Aways Are Relevant For Your Audience
Remember that the “Communications Go Box” ensures consistency in the message(s) being delivered to selected audiences, and makes it easy to walk into a meeting with a specific agenda and an orderly flow of talking points — with or without AV support.
Let’s review some of the “DO’s” (and contents) of the COMMUNICATIONS GO BOX:
DO have a “select” group, a communications committee, to take care of writing and design. Nothing will stall the development of creative content more than the ENTIRE board attempting to create. You’ll NEVER get anything done.
DO make sure the contents of the GO BOX are designed with “creativity”, “thought”, “direction”, and most importantly, developed to be flexible for the size and variety of audience. Don’t allow your materials to be amateurish. Your Brand, Your Image is at stake.
DO prepare an outline and keep it to One-page — One-page! If it goes beyond one page, you’ve already set yourself up to bore your audience to tears. Always follow the very important speaking rule: “Don’t Say ‘BOO BOO’, When ‘BOO’ Will Do”!
DO bear in mind that you’re probably presenting at a breakfast or luncheon. Thus, you have LIMITED time for introductions, stating your premise, and getting from “A” to “Z” as quickly and thoroughly as possible.
DO have your handouts, AV, power cords, computer, and all support materials set out and organized. And DO get to the site early to prepare. Preparation makes for effective public speaking.
DO prepare an agenda for the attendees, and tailored for the specific group and time allotted. Agendas need to be printed and distributed if it is not part of your AV/PowerPoint presentation. AND, remember to leave time for Q’s & A’s, and SIGN-UP’s!
DO prepare a Positioning Statement: The WHO, WHAT, WHY, WHERE, and HOW of the organization (this can also be in your PowerPoint presentation if you have AV available). Make believe your presentation is a verbal Website. It won’t take long for your audience to lose interest in you, your organization AND your presentation if you don’t focus on “SOUND BITES”.
DO have your personal “Belief Statement” ready. Remember that this is the speaker’s “credibility” statement that needs to be reinforced throughout the presentation to generate a more personal organization to the audience! You may be asked, “Just Why did you accept becoming a board member for this particular organization?” It’s a fair question and needs to be answered. What are the altruistic reasons you accepted this position. How do your core beliefs and values mesh with the organization’s Vision and Mission.
DO review the best PowerPoint presentation training-guide I’ve ever seen. It’s wonderful. The YouTube presentation entitled “How NOT To Use PowerPoint” by Comedian Don McMillan conveys some EXCELLENT advice while you’re laughing. See if you’re guilty of what he explains in his presentation or you’ve seen it in action:
DO remember that the quickest death for a public speaking opportunity is a poorly prepared, non-artistic, amateurish PowerPoint. It can quickly turn off your audience, so be careful and take the time to look at various sites that will give advice about WHITE SPACE, color and font selection, LIMITED slides and transitions! KNOW THY AUDIENCE — KNOW THY CONTENT! And when in doubt, go back and review Don McMillan’s YouTube presentation.
DO have FAQ’s written out and prepared for either handouts or “hip pocket” information. How do you develop those FAQ’s? Go to your website and turn ALL the pages of data into questions with short answers. Anticipate the obvious questions, which will typically revolve around your Who, What, Why, Where, When, and How statements. Compare your organization to similar organizations — everyone is vying for the same limited dollar donations — so be prepared to answer why your organization is worthy of earning those dollars and that person’s membership.
DO spend a few dollars and develop some giveaways or logo (brand identity) collateral for your organization. People love STUFF, i.e. pens, pencils, key chains, magnets. The stuff is inexpensive, but very valuable for keeping your organization’s name in front of the intended donor/member.
DO have a one-pager (front-and-back is ok) in color describing your organization, pluses, benefits, and accomplishments. Tri-fold brochures are not always necessary — plus they’re expensive. One-pagers are easy to re-produce, edit, and mail.
DO have a pack of enrollment or membership Cards and some form of business card, since your presentation will obviously a smashing success.
Your organization will look more professional, polished, and in control when a board member comes into a public speaking opportunity fully prepared and follows a structured presentation thanks to the COMMUNICATIONS GO BOX.
by Joseph R. John
Board Members Need a Structured Process for Presentations
No matter how accomplished a board member might be as a public speaker, the board member and especially the newly-elected board member, needs some “marketing” and “sales” assistance in making a professional and compelling presentation to an audience. When going public, it is imperative that all board members deliver the same message. Adlibbing gets EVERYONE in trouble.
That’s why it is imperative that an organization design and create a “Communications Go Box.” The “Go Box” is basically a “plug and play” public speaking program that eliminates all the guesswork for the board member when making a presentation to one or dozens of people.
The “Go Box” ensures consistency in the message(s) being delivered to selected audiences, and makes it easy to walk into that meeting with a specific agenda and an orderly flow of talking points — with or without AV support.
This communications vehicle IS NOT designed to inhibit nor restrict spontaneity. It merely provides a track for all board members to use in a public forum to ensure that major points are being stressed about the vision, mission and public policies of the organization. The “GO BOX” also helps keep compliance issues in check so that the organization’s branding and public policies are not being compromised.
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