Communications Insight For More Inspiring Leaders The 1st Priority Of Communication...

The 1st Priority Of Communication...

 9th Oct 2018

"Effective communication is not about what you say; it's about what your audience thinks you said."

How true. I remember first hearing this insight from Lance Miller, the 2005 Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking, at a conference in Mullingar, Ireland.

More recently, I was having a conversation with an institutional investor, based in Paris. Commenting on his experience attending AGMs across Europe for the firms in which his company invests, he said:

"Some speakers really struggle to impress me. I don't doubt that they're smart people, but if I literally cannot understand them, then I'll switch off..."

With tens (if not hundreds) of millions of Euros at stake, that strikes me as a compelling reason for ensuring clarity of understanding. 

And that's just a single audience member.

Language and/or accent is often cited as a barrier. True enough, a common challenge raised with me in the coaching room is how best to handle speaking in your 2nd, 3rd or even 4th language.

But it's too easy, in my view, to assume that being understood starts and ends with whether or not you speak the language.

Not true.

Because I see too many native speakers of a language struggle to be understood.


Because they're too rushed... too unstructured... too detailed... too complex...

It boils down to clarity.

At a recent AGM I attended, one of the most impactful and compelling speakers was a non-native speaker. 

Certainly, we live in an inter-dependent world. Cultural differences profoundly influence the way in which business is conducted.

But I've never heard an audience complain that a speaker was...

"Too clear..."

"Too relevant..."

"Too easily understood."

You might even say that non-native speakers have an advantage - provided they speak slowly and use simple language.

After all, listening is hard work.

In spoken communication - especially when technology is involved - there are all sorts of bells and whistles, tricks of the trade.

But they count for nothing if as a speaker you fail to achieve the first objective of communication:

Be understood.

An expert on presentations - if ever you need help or a refresh, he's your man!


Claire Young | BBC Apprentice Finalist and Motivational Speaker

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