I spend my professional life helping people become master communicators. Usually I focus on what they’re doing right rather than what they’re doing wrong. But there’s still a place for pointing out mistakes to avoid! Therefore, behold, the Six Mistakes Lackadaisical Communicators Make:
- Instead of having a great message and a truly provocative useful idea, you’re boring and derivative. You aren’t bringing a new idea to the party, or worse yet, you don’t even know that what you’re saying has been said a dozen times before.
- You don’t tell stories. In fact, you don’t engage as a human with your audience at all. You read your slides. Which are full of marketing jargon and acronyms. In a monotone. Because you have no idea what else to say or do.
- You focus entirely on what you want to say, without giving a thought to what your audience might want to hear. You give the same talk all the time, in exactly the same way, no matter who your audience is. You telegraph to them that they mean nothing to you. Having a microphone in your hand is what matters to you.
- You use stilted choreographed hand gestures because someone told you that’s what good speakers do. You fumble. You avoid eye contact. You keep holding your hand over your eyes because you’re not used to the light. In short, you are unnatural and entirely creepy, because you’ve done nothing to prepare your body to be in this environment, and you’ve lost touch with your natural self.
- You hate stepping out of your comfort zone. Speaking is hard. It’s uncomfortable. So instead of focusing even more energy on mastering it, you avoid every opportunity to communicate or practice communicating. Because you hate feeling dumb and less competent. So you never get better, which only reinforces the discomfort.
- The biggest possible mistake that lackadaisical communicators make: Not taking it seriously. If you respect this vital skill, you won’t make any of the five mistakes listed above! Stephen Covey says, “Communication is the most important skill in life.” Why on earth would you skip over mastering the most important skill in life and just wing an interview, a speech, even an all hands meeting? Hopefully, you’ll only need to stumble badly once to realize you never want to do it again!
Look. Communication can be incredibly hard and scary – especially in public. I know that. So what do you do? Commit yourself to building the skill. Focus. Get help. Practice. Prepare. Prepare some more. Note and celebrate your progress – even in tiny increments. And most importantly, be gentle and good-humored with yourself as you climb up the learning curve!
Communication is the essential last mile in finding and motivating the right teams, acquiring strong allies, powerfully bonding with customers, and capturing mindshare with compelling stories. Nothing will serve you and your vision better than developing exceptional communication skills.