How to Talk So People Will Listen: Protect Your Message!

Protecting Your Message

I dropped my phone the other day … the screen shattered immediately. But, fortunately, it was only the protector that shattered. The phone screen itself was fine. Those screen protectors really work!

Screen protectors are really necessary to protect your smart phone investment.

And that reminded me … when it comes to communication, our message is critical. It MUST be protected so it is heard clearly, accurately, and relevantly. Those three elements, clarity, accuracy, and relevancy, are essential.

  • When we speak with clarity, we are more easily understood. I heard a great piece of advice years ago: “Don’t make your audience work.” They shouldn’t have to work hard to understand what you mean. Say it – and say it clearly so they will understand.
  • When we speak with accuracy, our message will be on target. It won’t be subject to misinterpretation. Check your facts and figures. State them accurately, in such a way that they won’t be subject to misinterpretation.
  • When we speak with relevance, we show our audience how the message is important to them. Relevance answers questions your audience is asking, such as, “Why should I listen?” “Why do I need this?” “What will this do for me?”

Your message is critical. Protect it. Speak clearly, accurately, and relevantly!


How to Talk So People Will Listen #2 – The Hard Work of Communication

Logo white - no textThe following is adapted from our website at

One of my favorite movies is The King’s Speech, the true story of King George VI. Colin Firth plays the role of King George, who has a stuttering issue when speaking. Geoffrey Rush is his speech coach. It is a fabulous story of overcoming a speech handicap and impacting a nation at the brink of war. You may not have a speech impediment, but most of us could probably use some coaching to overcome impediments that would make us more effective communicators. We have found that most people do not have a clue how to get started in giving a presentation.

Extraordinary presentations take focus, work and practice, whether you are speaking to a nation or speaking to a customer or just trying to motivate your team. Giving effective and compelling presentations can sometimes, not only dramatically change your confidence level, it can change your whole person. As demonstrated in The King’s Speech, you need to focus on three things:  What is said, How it is said, and To Whom it is said.

Imagine yourself speaking to an audience where everyone believes you and they have no questions. Okay, now wake up. We understand how tough it is in today’s marketplace to build trust. When our intentions are good, we are doubted. When our products are good, people assume there is a catch. When we tell a positive story, people assume we are hiding something.

Aristotle wrote the first book on communication entitled Rhetoric. Aristotle says that every time that someone gets up to speak, no matter the occasion, their audience is asking three questions: (1) Can I trust you? (2) Do you care? (3) Have you got anything to say? Number three is easy. We’ve always got something to say. But one and two are the foundation and framework for how your content is delivered. Effective audience analysis is critical in your preparation. What are their issues? What are they thinking? What are they feeling? What is the objective of your presentation? Knowing your audience really well is the first step in building trust and knowing that you care. How do you build trust? Make it relevant. Make it tangible. Make it human. Make yourself real.

Abraham Lincoln lived in an era that needed a messenger with a message that would resonate. He accomplished both. Lincoln knew better than anyone, if you can’t communicate effectively, you will not lead. We live in a world where resonating with your customers is more crucial than ever. Honing your message and honing the messenger are critical to business, life and your success.

At Tightrope Communications, we are passionate about extraordinary presentations and extraordinary customer connections. Why? In today’s business climate the stakes are high! The normal keys to business success are money, a good product or service, the right people, and a good marketing plan. That’s the WHAT. The WHY is more critical. Conveying data is one thing; persuading an audience is quite another. Your task? Develop a message that ‘sticks’!

Presentations and customer connections are the de facto business communication tools. Most of us need to call a ‘time-out’ and reconsider everything about our current presentations; What we say…How we say it… and What our audience sees when we say it. We need to focus on three things; (1) How to capture your audience, (2) Learn how to tell an effective story, and (3) Give them ‘one thing’ to remember from your presentation.

Extraordinary presentations and extraordinary customer connections are hard work. The passionate pursuit of excellence requires focus, discipline, a process and knowing what to do… it’s what makes ‘extraordinary’ possible!

How to Talk So People Will Listen #1 – Ten Benefits of Effective Communication

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Today marks the beginning of a new series on communication. I am entitling it “How to Talk So People Will Listen,” because that’s what I want you to be able to do.

I was speaking recently at a meeting of CEOs in West Virginia. I asked them, “What will communication do for you? Why is it so important?” Here are ten reasons we identified…

  1. Effective communication can bring about change. When you communicate properly, you can motivate people to change direction and be more effective. It will persuade people to act. I define persuasion as “moving people to action after proper reflection.” Effective communication will accomplish that.
  2. Targeted communication will help you recruit talent. As you share your vision for your company, your passion will come through. Telling your story will act as a talent magnet, drawing others to your cause
  3. Healthy communication will help you understand and be understood. Communication is always a two-way street, between the presenter and the audience. Your goal is to understand their needs and concerns, and to craft a message so they will hear and respond properly.
  4. Compelling communication can increase sales. Sales is all about connecting with your customer. And that requires robust communication that speaks to the needs of your customers in a clear, accurate and relevant way.
  5.  Captivating communication educates, inspires and motivates. Teachers change lives when they communicate effectively. So do business leaders. They change the landscape of the competition.
  6. Gripping communication moves your organization toward excellence. It motivates your team to know what they are to do and to do it with excellence.
  7. Truthful communication develops leaders. It shows them what they are capable of and develops them into all they can be.
  8. Personal communication allows you to share your heart. And when your team knows your heart, they will follow.
  9. Convincing communication confronts, changes and corrects. It brings about necessary alterations and corrections. It marks the way forward and brings people on board to accomplish the vision and mission.
  10. Persuasive communication advances your career. Do you want to excel professionally? Learn to communicate effectively. Professionals who persuade people rise faster than their peers.

In future articles, we’ll look at how to develop as an effective communicator and to talk so people will listen.


Attracting Top Talent #10: Tell Your Story

Logo white - no textYour company has a story to tell. It’s your story. It’s the story of your culture, your vision, and the reason for your existence. Your story will set you apart from your competition, and, if told well, will act as a magnet for top talent. Those you interview are asking, “Why would I want to work here?” Give them a compelling reason!

How do you do that?

First, refine your story. Your story must be more than “We were founded fifty years ago by immigrants from Europe. Here’s what we build. Here’s how we’ve grown.” That’s your history … and perhaps it is appropriate to be told at an on-boarding session. But this is the story of why you exist now and what you offer to candidates who are interested in joining your team. You may need to clarify your vision. It must be a compelling vision that will attract top women and men to your cause.

Second, make sure your leadership team buys in to this story. Leaders lead. They set direction. They develop and mentor those under them. If they are going to represent you, they must be on board – not only with the development of leaders, but also the recruitment of those leaders. One company I worked with was not sure what their leaders “knew” and how they would articulate the company’s vision. I sat down with 4-5 of their key people and asked, “Tell me about what you do and what your company does. What sets you apart?” You can find out a lot by questions like that. In this case, what the company found out was not all that encouraging … so we took those leaders through some training on what were the key identifiers and how they could effectively communicate those to interested recruits.

Third, get the word out. How do you do that? Let me give you a couple of no-cost possibilities. First, use social media … it’s free and effective. Develop a strategy to highlight your company’s story through social media. Second, create a platform for your leaders to get the word out. Get them to speak at seminars and conferences, as well as recruiting events. Train them to effectively tell the story in a way that will grab the interest of high performers. Finally, work with them on developing their “likeability factor.” It’s true that top performers will be attracted to environments where other top performers reside … but only if they are likeable. Can they relate well?

How to get started: Begin by asking your leadership team, “Why would people want to work here?” How compelling are the answers? That should show you where you need to begin.

Attracting Top Talent #9: Three Ways to Avoiding Break-ups In The Workplace

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In my last article, I introduced you to Julie Nimmons, President of EXO Living. In response to my article, she sent this paper she wrote for the St. Louis edition of Smart Business Magazine. Here’s Julie …

Many years ago, Neil Sedaka famously introduced the song, “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do.” Obviously, the song is about personal relationships, yet when a new hire has to be dismissed, breakin’ up is hard to do.

No one hires a new team member nor does someone take a new job with failure as the goal. In terms of real world situations, according to a report by PR News in 2012, 46 percent of new hires fail in the first eighteen months. When CareerBuilder researched the cost of a bad hire in 2012, 41 percent of companies reporting a bad hire cited costs to the organization in excess of $25,000 and 24 percent gave more than $50,000 as the cost. These are substantial monetary costs, not to mention the cost in ways not so measurable, i.e. loss of credibility of the individual responsible for the hire, negative employee morale, loss of customer/client support, lost productivity…just to name a few. Why does this happen, and what can be done to significantly lessen a negative outcome? Let’s break this down to three stages that can help avert a bad hire.

Review criteria for the position. This takes time, and most often, urgency to fill a position is cited as the primary reason a new hire fails. No surprise with this reason. It is hard to recall any decision made under the strain of urgency to be a good decision. Urgent is the enemy of important. Under an urgent condition, very seldom has a review of the job requirements been accomplished, much less a distinction between technical requirements as well as attitudinal requirements. When these are not done, the likelihood of the interview process being done well is improbable. If the individual responsible for the hiring process does not have a complete understanding of what this new hire is responsible to accomplish, as well as the ability to communicate corporate culture attitudes relative to this position, the interview process will operate under less than ideal circumstances. Taking time for a complete review of the position and establishing skills and attributes necessary for a successful hire is imperative for the interview stage to be done well.

Create a brand ambassador. The first day a new hire enters the work place offers a unique opportunity for him/her to become an on-fire brand ambassador. While getting all the proper documentation for employment is absolutely necessary, it doesn’t need to take place in the first hour of setting foot in the office. Imagine how it would feel to walk into a new office with signage ready to go, branded golf shirt/pen/mug on the desk, business cards already done, as well as a “Welcome” balloon or something that is just plain fun for the new hire. Additionally, if there is a spouse or significant other, if that individual receives a note and a little “Welcome to the Team” gift, you will probably have another on-fire brand ambassador. The on-boarding process is too often relegated to filling out forms, introductions, and hand-shakes. What a wasted opportunity to tell a new hire how he/she is a valued member of the team.

Establish goals and objectives. Of course, the reason someone is hired is to perform certain tasks, achieve goals, and to contribute to the success of an organization. When CareerBuilder asked about the definition of a bad hire, 67 percent of the responses reported that the quality of the work was “lackluster.” This tremendously high percentage begs further questions concerning the process for establishing expectations and goals. If expectations and goals are not discussed, agreement cannot be reached. Unless they are written down, along with identifying dates by which they are to be accomplished, too often the parties involved ASSUME everyone is on the same page. Regrettably, the one word, assume, turns into three words—and no one is happy. Have the discussion, write down the goals and objectives using SMART criteria (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) and monitor the progress.

While there are no guarantees, take the time to review the job criteria, create a brand ambassador from the first day on the job, establish SMART goals and objectives from the beginning, and BEAT the 46 percent.