Insights

Communication, 2021 Style

Over the past year or so, chances are you've probably had to alter the way you communicate with staff and stakeholders. Welcome to the world of online interviews, Zoom meetings, strategy sessions and town halls. Some will like the change to digital, others will have found it both challenging and impersonal. Some may even have found it to be a business curse, blaming the lack of face-to-face contact and networking for that lost deal or withering corporate relationship. But there are lots of ways to improve your communication skills this year and in the process, improve your business relationships and ultimately, bottom line. 

Turn up the volume 

2020 may have been the first year you've had to be on camera and a live camera to boot. It's a very different proposition looking into a client's eyes than it is staring at a fuzzy, pixelated image or worse, a black camera lens as you play presenter. Want to make it look and sound better? Go overboard. That means increasing your energy and animating your voice beyond the normal levels. At first, you're going to feel self-conscious but these tricks will help boost your confidence while at the same time help you communicate personal interest and positivity. Start with a 10-15 per cent increase in volume when you speak. Notice what happens to your body when you do that? Your diaphragm lifts, your back straightens and you immediately look more engaged. Now, if you can aim for an eventual 20-30 per cent boost in volume, you'll actually find there's a commensurate rise in how you view your own message. That's right, you'll end up being more convinced of what you're selling. And if you're more convinced.... 

An eye for an ear

Yes, you read it right. You want to get someone to hear you? Look into their eyes, it's deeply personal and powerful and the most profound way to communicate interest in another person. Online, that can be harder to achieve (see above) but there are ways to compensate. When you want to emphasise a word, phrase, key selling point (ha), lean in to the camera, get closer to the lens. Throw in a smile too and you've created some instant warmth. It also says, I'm looking right at you and you need to hear what I'm saying. It's a wake up call to your audience who may or may not be asleep already.  

Time to get physical

Some experts say that non-verbal cues make up 90% of what we say and if there's even a fraction of truth in that number, you body has to help drive home your message. What are you doing with your hands? Where are they? Ideally resting somewhere in the middle of your body, with powerful but limited gesticulations. You want to underline a point? Use your hand. Bring it out in front, conductor-style and time the motion to the beat of your words. Stop when you want to make your point. There's a reason we say someone's speech is punchy. 

Voice matters

This is the hardest thing to change or manipulate but there are ways to get over shortcomings and/or deliver your message with added zest. Slow down. Now, slow it down even more. We often speak much faster than we intend and the message can get lost in the process. One way to force yourself to slow down is using pauses. It creates enormous dramatic effect and has the powerful ability to underline or highlight. Use it immediately before or after a key point and watch what happens to your audience. They will respond. It might feel unnatural but trust me, it wreaks of power and says you're in command of the room.  

Adding a bit of colour 

It doesn't matter what kind of presentation you're making, even the most interesting topics can feel tedious as a listener. Just like I've used headlines in this post to break up the text, there are ways to create natural breaks in your physical presentation. And by that, I don't mean clicking through to the next PowerPoint slide. If you're on a stage, use it. Walk up and down, stop when you're about to say something you want your audience to remember. It's commanding and acts as a jolt in much the same way as a pause in speech. No stage? No problem. Ask a rhetorical question, then answer it. It's extremely versatile as it can help move your audience onto the next topic or act as a tool to reorganise your thoughts and get you back on track.  Try to make it amusing too, there are extra points for making the audience laugh. 

By this point, you might be thinking that's a lot to remember and implement but believe me, it's not. Practise adding these to your presentation one at a time until you get used to them. After a while, you'll find yourself doing these things naturally. Increase the volume in your voice, exaggerate attempts to create eye contact, use your hands to underline key points, slow down your speech, throw in a pause and add in a rhetorical question for some colour or purpose. Now, that's not so hard is it?

Want some extra help? Ask us about our presentation skills sessions. Use the code SKILLS10 and get 10% off in February. Contact us at info@wordperfecthk.com 


Tips every speechwriter should consider

Ever wondered how the US President's speechwriter goes about one of the world's most difficult jobs? Jon Favreau was President Obama's "voice" for eight years in the White House. He's come up with five golden tips that every speechwriter should consider:

  1. The story is more than the words
  2. Keep it simple (one of my all time favourites)
  3. Always address the arguments against your position during your presentation, not after
  4. Empathy is key
  5. There is no persuasion without inspiration

For the full article, go to https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/obamas-speechwriter-shares-5-storytelling-tips-trevor-ambrose


Top 3 reasons why you need media training

Media training isn't just designed to prevent you from getting into trouble. First and foremost, it's about helping you craft a message that will build your brand and your business. Of course, crisis management training is critical but we're more interested in helping you help your business grow. So, here are the top three reasons why you should get media training:

1. You need the whole package. You may sound like a Rhode Scholar and have the IQ to match but a compelling presentation also involves body language, voice pitch and tempo as well as the hard to measure "likeability" factor. We're not advocating becoming someone other than yourself, but rather learning how to communicate in ways to win your audience over.

2. Take control. As a C-suite manager, you may be asked to do the odd interview and after a while you may even feel like you have a handle on it. But remember, journalists do this for a living. They're used getting what they want in the time they want it. They're looking for succinct answers to their questions and often won't put up with rambling or evasive responses. It can be very intimidating, especially if you're doing a live TV Q&A, so learning how to control the interview is crucial to your communications success.

3. Be prepared. It's not just about knowing your product, service, company, industry and competitors, it's about delivering a message in a way that resonates with your audience. Forget boardroom talk or shareholder speak, it's crucial to learn how to communicate confidently, concisely and effectively.


Time to refine your search

Everyday, recruitment sites in Hong Kong are filled with job ads for "creative", "expert" or "exceptional" copywriters. Here's how it goes, "top-tier company looking for bright, experienced and dedicated copywriter. Must be fluent in Cantonese, English and Mandarin and have a solid background in marketing, journalism or public relations". 

Then you scroll down to the bottom of the page and discover that said candidate should be degree qualified and have one to two years experience. In other words, this top-tier company wants to find a quality copywriter, with superior writing and communication skills in not one, but three languages and then offer them an entry-level salary. We're all for aiming high, but the chances of finding a "junior copywriter" with "exceptional skills" is both unrealistic and oxymoronic. It takes time to master this craft. 

The most you can hope for is finding someone with promise or talent. The exceptional comes later, much later and yes, it costs more, a lot more. And as for hiring a copywriter who is fluent and creative in three languages, good luck, it's a rare find. On the off chance you do happen upon such a candidate, recognise that talent, elevate them to senior status and pay them accordingly. 

So, the message to business owners is, be realistic. Identify your primary market and hire content makers who understand it both in terms of language and culture. If yours is a multi-market business, then hire copywriters native to each market, your business and brand reputation depend on it.

When close enough is good enough?

It's Friday, so time to have a bit of fun. Check out this classic snapped in Hong Kong recently.

It goes without saying that if your company doesn't have a bilingual employee in-house, hire a professional translator.