Along this journey I’ve shared many of my “aha!”… “oooh”… “aaaah” moments, but let me talk to you today about this biggest one yet…Speak to Persuade.
When I heard that our session’s name was “Speak to Persuade”, I was excited for what was coming. You see, my father – who is one of my greatest inspirations and role models – has worked on all aspects of the entertainment business for my entire life. Talk show, radio, and MCing is his forte and oh, is he good! I grew up observing and unintentionally learning how to paint pictures with words, improvise, feed off a crowd, come up with quick, witty responses, etc…in essence, how to talk my way into a desired state. As far as I knew, I was a decent public speaker and crafty persuader.
We were given 4 very simple questions. Three of these questions are part of our EDI introduction, so we say them every time we meet. We were recorded answering these 4 VERY SIMPLE questions, and then we played back the recording to assess how we did. I’ll tell you that I was disappointed at what I saw on screen. For context, the session was going great! I had been exercising my natural (inherited/learned) public speaking skills comfortably – cracking jokes and engaging in the discussion – yet what came through when I stood up to answer those questions was stiffness, over-analysis, and even defensiveness. My lively personality did not come through at all and it was not anything I said; the content was good. So…"what happened?", you may ask. My body language and tone of voice exhibited a persona that is not me. Our facilitator, Vanna Novak, looked at me and said, “I lost your personality…you were lost in your head.” Wow! This clicked in a profound way. In an instant, I started to think back at specific instances where I’ve given presentations or had to speak in public or to large groups. I was able to identify that sometimes I want to articulate ideas and thoughts so eloquently that I overthink. I was taken back to occasions where, as I talk, I am searching for fancy words to embellish my speech and end up awkwardly pausing with, I imagine, a confused look on my face until catching my train of thought. I now recognize that, in those moments, my audience did not capture the message as I intended to deliver it because I was not projecting what I wanted.
Self-reflection on my previous experiences brought me to a bigger conclusion about public speaking and speaking to persuade. EDI’s backbone to leadership development is defined by three letters – A, E, I. Let’s talk about “A”. “A” is for authentic – a leadership characteristic that is very important to me. Whenever I don’t allow my personality to come through, it's because I’m trying to be “Mr. Eloquence” and I lose some of my authenticity. I am serious, driven, and passionate, but at the same time, I’m good humored and goofy. These sides ARE part of the PROFESSIONAL in me and need to co-exist in harmony. It does when I’m not putting extra effort into thinking about the correctness of my words; I am the most impactful because I am most comfortable, engaging, and, more importantly, genuine. I will end this with a thought/reminder mainly for myself, but I won’t be offended if you use it too: Big words don’t get the job done, connecting with people does.