The tools you have to keep someone’s attention in this distraction-ridden world are becoming ever more valuable. Yet the single most important tool you have to keep someone’s attention, explains Michael Chad Hoeppner at the 2016 Propeller Innovation Festival, is actually one of the oldest. It’s how you speak. Yet as we communicate more and more, are we also taking the time to ensure we communicate better?
Take a moment to think about how your communication impacts you on a daily basis. We all express ourselves, make first impressions, and make money by saying stuff - whether it’s with a job interview, funding pitch, sales call, or a casual conversation that evolves into an opportunity. Nobody wins by communicating poorly. Yet as Hoeppner explains, nearly everyone - from CEOs, to high school students, to everyone in between - often struggle with the same three primary communication mistakes.
Hoeppner, founder of Genuine Knowhow, would know. He’s trained people from Fortune 1000, international law firms, and top academic institutions how to communicate more effectively. He goes on to demonstrate how people can tackle each of these three main challenges kinesthetically, by creating and embedding new habits through muscle memory and using your body in a different way. Practicing these three kinesthetic drills will radically change both what you say, and how you say it.
Issue #1: Ditch the Filler Words
Filler language is actually not a problem in and of itself, Hoeppner explains. “It’s a symptom of not being in as much command of your language as you could be.” Ever catch yourself saying filler words such as um, like, kinda, sorta, basically, or literally? The solution is to practice and develop a precise command over what you’re saying.
The Drill: Finger-Walking
Instead of telling yourself “don’t say um,” Hoeppner suggests this: Take your fingers and let them walk across a surface and choose each and every word specifically as your fingers walk along. Selecting each word you say intentionally will help you master the skill of linguistic precision, after which you’ll be able to leave the drill aside and retain that precision - without using filler words.
Issue #2: Ditch the Jargon
The second biggest communication mistake people make is not using language that you can see and taste and feel. Take, for example, this company description: “We see to leverage the power and efficiency of resistance training outerwear to drive more effective workouts over the length of any given workout.” Are you compelled? Hoeppner recommends dropping the technical jargon and use language that connects with people.
The Drill: Use Words to Paint a Picture
Play around with language. Challenge yourself to put your message into a metaphor or story in a way that it connects to people. Hoeppner helped the company from the example above transform their description to this: “If you're exercising on the moon would be easy? And if you're exercising on the bottom of the ocean, would be hard? Our pants help you feel like you're exercising on the bottom of the ocean, but you're actually on the moon.”
Issue #3: Ditch the Mode
The third way Hoeppner sees people mess themselves up a lot as communicators is that they tend to go into a mode. Lawyers, academics, scientists, and even startups all have a mode. In high pressure situations, they use less of themselves to communicate, becoming more monotone or static.
The Drill: Silent Storytelling
Here Hoeppner recommends channeling your inner karaoke queen: practice lip-synching your presentation while channeling your best Milli Vanilli or Britney Spears. Use all of your body and all of your facial expressions, but only mouth the words. Try it for a while, and then add voice back into it. ”I promise when you do that all of a sudden you experience your voice and a different more varied way,” Hoeppner says.
As communication and sharing frequencies increase in the face of mounting competition for attention, there’s no doubt we can all benefit from communicating more effectively. The first step is to identify one thing you can improve on as a communicator—it could even be something you do well that you want to do even better. Then, Hoeppner says, “I challenge you to find a kinesthetic way to work on it.”
What’s one way you’d like to improve as a communicator? Tweet your question to @genuineknowhow & @letspropel for ideas and resources. For more learnings from the Propelify Innovation Festival, visit http://propelify.com.