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How to speak so people really listen

Having recently read Paul McGee’s book ‘How to speak so people really listen’ it struck a chord on how important effective, clear communication is, both professionally and personally. Despite being focused on public speaking, we can all take something from his wealth of tips and advice, a very quick overview of which is given here.

To start off with, let’s look at what not to do:

The 7 great sins of speaking

Sin #1 A failure to make your message sticky or memorable – use repetition more and use less familiar language to communicate familiar ideas

Sin #2 Drowning people in detail - use the SLIM approach, Say Less Impact More. When your mind gets cluttered with content, clarity gets lost in the chaos

Sin#3 A failure to consider or understand your audience’s needs – know your audience not just your message. People need to understand the why-in before you can get their buy-in

Sin #4 Focusing on features rather than selling benefits - People care about themselves. If you talk about their reality, their world, you will be relevant to them and they’ll listen and be engaged

Sin #5 Winging it – if you care, you prepare. Beware of the dangers of complacency and perhaps even arrogance

Sin #6 Showing slides that suck the life out of your audience - Your slides are intended to benefit your audience, not act as an aide memoir for you

Sin #7 Taking people on a pointless ramble – the initial engagement with the audience is critical. Make sure you’re answering the question...’so what’s the point?’

And now let’s turn to what to do :

The 8 great ways to speak


1. Get real – bring more of who you are to your audience. Be human, have a conversation

2. Get your attitude into gear – make sure your attitude to what you’re talking about is positive – sell it, don’t just say it

3. Start at the end – start with ‘what am I aiming to achieve by the time I’ve shut up’? Without clarity of purpose you’ll lack confidence and conviction

4. Sort out your skeletons – without structure or direction your talk will fall apart

5. Grab’em by the eye balls – you need to start by getting people’s attention

6. Become an artist – be more visual with your words

7. Tell stories – the oldest and most effective communication tool in history

8. Shine at question time – anticipate tough questions, be honest and if no-one asks, ask and answer yourself

Consider your audience

The more you think about your audience, the more they will think of you, so appeal to their heart not just their intellect.

Know – What is the number one fact my audience has to know as a result of my talk?
Feel – How do you want your audience to feel after you’ve spoken?
Do – What do you want them to do as a result? If you don’t point out the next step, there won’t be a next step.