Work Backwards to Move Forward in Executive Communications
Wanna dance? I do. When I was 17, I had to. I was a last minute stand-in dance partner at a gala after my friend unexpectedly broke up with her high school boyfriend.
In this case, it was a formal ball to celebrate the candy stripers — the volunteers — at our local hospital. There would be fine dresses, tuxedos and a dance performance. The trouble was that although I was athletic, captain of our cross country team and capable of enduring the long night of dancing, I was also a klutz. Dancing, I quickly discovered, is different than running forward.
The solution was a dance class held by the organizers of the gala. All of it led to the big night. We managed not to fall down or twist an ankle. I’m proud to say this wiry, uncoordinated kid danced. However, the Dancing with the Stars people won’t be calling anytime soon.
Here was a simple problem readily identified and solved. The goal (need to dance) opened the problem (don’t know how to dance) which led to the solution (take a class) was a backwards process that led forward to success.
So it is with speeches. With any speech, it is almost always the same process.
Of Course I Can Dance
Look at your audience’s position on a matter. Look at yours. You’ll find the problem in the space between your position and theirs. Determine what it will take to get your audience to where you are, and then configure a speaking strategy accordingly.
If, for example, you are rolling out a new software implementation across your firm – a change management concern – ask why your employees aren’t on board yet. Then, solve that issue. This will lead to a myriad of consequential issues requiring a solution.
Here’s what it could look like:
- Maybe they don’t know it is coming. Tell them.
- Maybe they think it will difficult. This is only easy to solve if adoption will be a breeze. If not, be honest. Being open about the learning curve or expected hurdles will help.
- Maybe they fear they won’t learn quickly. That’s a fair concern on their end. Tell them about the technical help your company offers.
- Maybe they are simply scared of a new thing. Admit you understand and that you prefer the old way as well, but that it made sense to change. Explain in layman’s terms why the decision was made and make your team available for a deeper discussion.
As you go to your audience’s perspective and walk backwards, you will bring them with you. By being honest, open and vulnerable, you will be able to lead your audience to where you need them.
You’ll get your audience to the place you need by understanding where they are and working backwards through concerns one-by-one.
Now, go dance like everyone’s watching.
I’d love to hear your ideas.