Believe it or not, influence is not synonymous with persuasion.
Many of us who played sports growing up relied on a coach to motivate us, correct our actions, hone our skills and develop our abilities. As an adult, this changes profoundly. No longer is a coach standing on the sidelines stretching us beyond what we imagined possible. We are on our own.
Even the most seasoned communicators can find themselves in a variety of demanding and difficult situations. What sets you apart from others is the ability to handle these situations while maintaining your confidence and credibility as a communicator. Here are a few examples of demanding situations:
- You are sharing information that is debatable or is a “hard truth” for the audience.
- Your audience is skeptical or unfriendly to you, your organization and/or your topic.
- Your audience is “checking out” of your presentation via a side conversation, a cell phone, checking e-mail or simply nodding off.
- You are not able to effectively convince or sell your audience on your ideas or position.
- You have one or more detractors in the audience who are interrupting you, discounting your information or posing questions before you are finished.
Situations like these sometimes occur so it is important to be prepared in advance should you find yourself faced with a difficult audience. Here are a few tips that can help you prepare.
- Buy yourself some time to think. Pose clarifying questions such as “Can you specify why you are opposed to this?” or “When did you observe this?” Ask for examples or details to help flush out their opinions giving you time to pull your thoughts together.
- Disengage from detractors. Acknowledge the disagreement without judging. Remember, it is your job to present information without getting into arguments with one person at the expense of others. You can also open the discussion up to a wide audience; chances are somebody else will argue your point for you.
- Give audience-focused answers. People care about how things impact them or their beliefs, and not so much you or others. Phrase your answers to questions in such a way that audiences see benefits to them.
- Mirror your audience. Validate their question or comment, but bridge to your answer with phrases such as, “I hear your concerns. We are confident our approach will work,” or “That is an interesting concept, but we are taking a different path.”
- Know your material from both sides. In advance, play devil’s advocate in an effort to prepare yourself for expected opposition. Prepare what some of the responses will be and how you plan to answer them.
- Establish a protocol for questions. At the start of your presentation, request that people raise their hand before commenting or questioning or designate time at the end for questions. If someone does interrupt, tell them you will address their point shortly, but stick to the main points of your presentation. If dissenters insist on questions, let them know you’ll be happy to speak to them privately afterwards or during a break.
What tricks have you learned to think on your feet quickly? Tell us in the comments below, or tweet us using the hashtag #mcgblog.
The complexity of today’s business environment requires solid messaging strategies. If companies are not dealing with financial issues, they likely find themselves challenged by a changing regulatory and political environment, scaled back workforce and fewer resources. Yet, customer expectations are higher and the demand for transparency is stronger.
Leaders are leaning on PR professionals, both inside and outside their companies, to help develop effective messages for a wide variety of situations that resonate with a growing list of stakeholders, not just shareholders.
It is tempting to rely on traditional approaches to messaging that worked well in the past when the more linear model of communication ruled the day. But in today’s world, communication often occurs without the involvement of the organization itself. Compounding the complexity is the exploding number of digital channels that have given rise to countless new communities and further enabled 24/7 conversations about companies.
Too often, messages are designed to respond to a current situation, falling far short of communicating what organizations need and stakeholders demand. Developing a more strategic approach to messaging can help ensure communication will resonate with stakeholders and accomplish the organization’s larger goals. The following is a sampling of points to consider when crafting organizational messages:
Align messages with organizational goals
- What are leadership’s goals with stakeholders?
- What are the needs and interests of stakeholders that must be fulfilled?
- How do leaders believe they are doing in the eyes of stakeholders?
Consider the context
- What are the relevant issues in the larger business environment?
- Is something similar happening to competitors or just your organization?
- Was this something we caused or that happened to us via external forces?
Anticipate reaction / acknowledge different viewpoints
- Who thinks differently than you do on this issue?
- How will detractors criticize us?
- Is there common ground to be found?
Preserve relationships with key stakeholders/ Earn trust through timely response
- Who needs to be communicated with and in what order?
- When should you respond?
- What is the opposition doing?
- How available and prepared is your spokesperson(s)?
Present a credible and reasonable voice to stakeholders
- Who are your subject matter experts?
- Who has credibility with stakeholders?
- Are there third party spokespersons you can use to add a new dimension?
What kinds of challenges does your team face in creating compelling messages? Let us know what has worked for you – and what hasn’t – in the comments section below. You may also tweet us your thoughts on Twitter at #mcgblog.