To ensure your strategies are a success there are three key areas to take note of, explains Richard Newman, communications expert, owner of UK Body Talk, and author of You Were Born To Speak
CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article which appeared on the HR magazine website.
As you look at the school year ahead you may have many great plans about how to transform your school’s culture, productivity and engagement. Perhaps you have conducted surveys and created an intelligent plan for making it all happen. However, how many times have you seen this type of plan fail, fall apart or falter along the way? How often have you seen colleagues speak about great ideas at a conference and then watched as nothing happened?
You may have experienced this yourself. You may have left meetings feeling confident that everyone understood your strategy – and yet they continued to act in the same old fashion. This can discourage and demotivate the best of us into feeling there is little point in putting plans forward only to see them ignored…but what if you could gain immediate and consistent action from your team, so that you could achieve more success and fulfilment through seeing your plans come to life?
There are three critical areas, that are often overlooked, which you can harness to gain results. They are style, story and state.
Some people believe that ‘great ideas will speak for themselves’. Sadly, this is not the case. How you deliver the message is obviously important, but the science behind this is often misunderstood. Recent research conducted with the head of psychology at UCL, Peter Fonagy, involving more than 2,000 people from around the world, showed that small changes in the way you communicate can ensure you convince 42% more people to take action on your ideas. You can say the same words, wear the same clothes – and yet gain a very different reaction to your message. The way to achieve this is to remove habits and return to the way you were born to speak.
For example, many people believe that when they stand up to speak they should move around to keep the audience engaged. Some also believe that you should restrict your gestures to appear professional. Both of these beliefs are false. Research shows that men and women of all ages across Europe, Asia and North America strongly prefer watching a person who stands still, with their feet shoulder-width apart, making a range of gestures. By standing in a strong, balanced position while taking up space with your gestures, your presence and gravitas increases – as does the confidence your audience has in your ideas. People will leave your meeting more likely to act on your words, feeling more emotionally motivated to do so.
The era of communicating through bullet points and endless lists is over. We have been communicating critical life and death stories with our tribe for 100,000 years successfully. We started using slides about 30 years ago and many ideas have been crushed in the process. To create forward motion with your initiatives you must return to the way people are born to listen. Research conducted on 600 people in Washington showed that if we listen to a speaker who uses slides filled with text we only remember 10% of the information; if the same speaker gives the same talk using images, rather than text, we recall 65% of the information.
Before your next meeting you must turn your processes into visual stories. To do this you need the classic elements of a story – a problem, a hero and a journey. You cannot just announce your brilliant idea and expect a good reaction; if Batman walked around Gotham City saying ‘I’m the answer to all of your problems’ people would laugh, or run away. Batman only makes sense when we need to defeat the Joker! The same is true of your ideas. You must first describe a problem we care about, then describe a better future where those problems have been solved.
Finally, tell us the journey we need to go on to achieve that better future. By doing this we will be engaged and motivated to act.
You may have a great communication style and really engaging content to share with people, but if your mindset isn’t right you will fail in the most important moments. You must ensure you are in a peak state when you go into critical meetings so that you can influence people effectively. One of the simplest ways to do this is called ‘priming’. You can prime your mind for success before the event starts.
Anxiety is fuelled by imagining a negative event in the future. You can reverse this by picturing the event going well, then thinking about every meeting you have had in the past where you performed at your best. Reminding yourself of past ‘peak state’ events reduces anxiety and primes your mind for success.
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