Understanding the Importance of Communication Savvy
Perhaps the two most important aspects of most information-laden professions and leadership in general are (1) becoming a strong writer and (2) becoming a strong speaker. This is because of the importance and priority of communication and its central role in leadership and life.
Today I want to share what a power communicator must have. There was a resource offered a number of years ago that referenced this concept, but I’d like to unpack these ideas a little more here.
Those of us who put food on the table through our teaching/preaching/speaking think a lot about communication. And as an educator, I spend time considering how to help undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral pastoral and ministry students become the best communicators they can possibly be. I want to bring balance to the issue by highlighting three enormously important issues for communicators and those who train them.
Three Components of Power Communicators
To become a power communicator capable of shaking the earth, three power principles must be mastered:
There are those who sometimes teach or speak who are entertaining to hear, but who fail to deliver the goods. When life (or people, time, resources, business, money, influence, whatever your thing) is on the line, the one thing you must do is put the cookies on the bottom shelf. Meaning, you MUST bring home the bacon; you MUST ring the bell; you must shuck the corn. Whatever analogy you want to employ, it’s crucial that if you’re going to speak, you have something to say. Some people don’t. Others think they do, but can’t produce. Content is an enormous priority for the speaker– in many ways THE priority. Don’t neglect the content. Don’t abuse the message. It’s the only reason you’re really speaking in the first place.
In addition to WHAT one says, however, is HOW one says it. A really common and unfortunate mistake that many ineffective communicators make is to assume that CONTENT (substance) is all that really matters in speaking. This could be a painful statement, but the people who make that false assumption are generally poor communicators. Any strong communicator knows that connecting with an audience is by no means restricted to the substance of the talk.
So, in addition to substance is SOUL. “Soul” has to do with the communicator’s inner man. His or her inner self. The best communicators are able to transcend the limits of language and place their very hearts on display. They reveal primal emotions, potent convictions, and powerful attitudes. They can release the best of their personhood and vitality in the moment of truth. They have such a command of their ‘selfhood’ and security in their identity that they are able to project whatever their subject calls for: authority, passion, motivation, intimacy, compassion, angst, inspiration, humor, gratitude– whatever it may be, to their listeners– making them feel and think and want to do the same thing. Without soul, we’re only talking heads. Without soul, we have no heart. Without soul, we’re old news– we’re just another tired talker, but not a power communicator. Release the fullness of your best self when you step onto the platform or when you stand in that sacred desk.
Substance is a must. Soul is indispensable. But your speech must also sizzle. After you’ve done the hard work of study, reflection, hermeneutics, exegesis, research, thought, meditation and speaking prep, if you are incapable of bringing the heat, you will likely lose many of your listeners. So it’s not only what you say, but how you say it. It’s not just being an effective speaker and having a handle on grammar and syntax. It’s also making sure that you have a powerful command on vocabulary that you can draw from at a moment’s notice in order to paint a masterpiece to your audience or the congregation.
Can you make it “SING?” Can you allow the Spirit of God to breathe life into that dry manuscript and make the bones live? When you speak, does it pop? Does it happen? Does it thrill and excite and stimulate the learner. Does it force the listener to think, feel, and act? The best speakers have a near hypnotic command of their audience in such a way that the person loses all track of time and, as you speak, their hearts burn within them. Though, in Christian speaking, the power of God sometimes falls on a situation, to be sure– but do not confuse that supernatural act with the need for personal effort in selling what you say with a little sizzle.