"One good conversation can shift the direction of change forever.”
–Linda Lambert, author and professor emeritus at California State University
Speaking without being deliberate can prove disastrous for your next company presentation. It can even have your listeners wondering, “What the heck are we talking about?” no matter how thorough you think your communication is. Conversations like these can feel like a waste of time and leave your listeners with unclear instructions on what action is needed from them.
Poor communication like this happens all around us on a daily basis. Stand out from the crowd by grounding yourself in purpose and dialing into the subject matter your listeners care about most. But don’t just take out word for it. Experts like author and award-winning journalist Celeste Headlee are saying the same thing.
In Episode 27 of Think Deeply, Speak Simply—Having Conversations That Matter—Celeste defined “conversations that matter” as exchanges where all engaged parties have learned at least one small thing. She argued that while this may sound simple, it’s often anything but.
Read on for her insider tips on crafting conversations that matter.
Create a story arc
Every speaker must create a story arc in their mind before talking. This will help you navigate from dominating the conversation to guiding it to the benefit of every participant. It takes a sound awareness of your audience and what makes them different from everyone else to achieve this. Consider the following questions to thoroughly understand the progression of your story:
- What is your story? What is its beginning, middle, and end?
- What does your audience know that nobody else does?
- What unique problem or perspective are they experiencing that others can’t see?
Evaluating these questions will help your communication achieve the maximum impact in a limited amount of time. Remember, you want to uncover exclusive information that only your listeners can tell you. This will help you tailor your business presentation specifically to them and help you accomplish your pitch’s overall intent.
Ask for feedback
The only way to self-evaluate and rate the effectiveness of your communication is by asking others. That means you must be vulnerable and open-minded enough not to get defensive when someone offers you critical feedback. This can be especially troublesome since some people may not offer constructive criticism as gently as you would like them to. Take time to slow down and evaluate what is true about what others are saying. You don’t have to accept every piece of feedback, especially since some may not be true or useful. Use a critical lens to fairly assess what is and isn’t helpful. Filter through each observation for the gems that will help you become a more effective communicator.