Communication & Leadership

with Peggy Klaus

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Good communication does not happen on its own.

Peggy Klaus

Communications & Leadership Guru

Lessons Learned

Just like athletes practice before going on the field, you need to practice before you present.

Despite what you may have heard, do not practice in front of a mirror.

Practice helps you avoid a presentation meltdown.

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Lesson: Communication & Leadership with Peggy Klaus

Step #9 Preparation: Good communication does not happen on its own

I think that one of the things that often happens, whether you're an entrepreneur or whether you're climbing the corporate ladder, is that we get ourselves into communication situations that cause us to meltdown.

By meltdown, I mean that our best selves, the selves that are confident and conversational and fluid and give great eye contact and great body language, do not come to the stage. So we appear less confident, less mature, less sure of ourselves. That makes people in the audience feel very uncomfortable. Certainly I have seen it. It will make investors not want to give money.

What I tell people is certainly do the preparation – knowing who your audience is, knowing what they want, knowing how they best receive the information and knowing what it is that you need to say to them. Then comes the part about practicing. I think here is where people really do not give it its due. Practice is really important. Just as an athlete goes on the court, there are many thousands, tens of thousands of hours that go into that performance, as a concert pianist, as a theatrical person.

So, practice is really important and practicing in the way that, let's say, for example, you've got a pitch that you've got in two weeks, getting it . . . What we call lifting it off the page so that you get it to sound conversational. The way that you do that, I would suggest is, instead of putting yourself in front of a mirror like many presentation coaches have taught you, don't do that because it limits your energy. It limits your physicalization. You also spend too much time looking at yourself in the mirror.

So, what you want to do is we want you to get up. You want to get the words out on your tongue. You want to paraphrase them a lot so that they seem very interesting and fluid and conversational. Then what you want to do is make sure that you start each rehearsal process with what I call "going over the top", which is rehearsing and practicing way off your comfort zone, really exaggerated.

It's things like, as you're walking around the room before you start saying out loud, "I can't wait to tell you this. Wait till you hear this. I am the expert and I am so happy to be telling you this." So that you get yourself excited and enthusiastic, so that when you get in front of that audience of investors that are going to make you nervous, you will have practiced and warmed up so off your comfort zone, so exaggerated that when your adrenaline kicks in, you will come down a bit but you will hit your performance stride exactly where you want it to be.

If you don't do that, believe me – I've been doing this 20 years – you will meltdown and be less of yourself, less conversational, less convincing, less confident.

What most business professionals don't do is prepare and practice. We have a situation where people just wing it. The stat on winging it is that 80 percent of the time when you don't prepare and practice in the way that you should, you fail in your communication. Now, by fail, I don't mean that you end up stammering or that you run off the stage like Michael Bay did, but you do not have the impact that you need to have in any kind of communication situation.

Twenty percent of the time when you don't prepare and practice the way you should, you actually succeed. That is just enough of a reinforcer for business professionals to wing it, because they think back to the last time or the time before that and they think, "Well, I'm an expert in this. I know the content. So, I can do this. I can walk in." I've seen whole teams do this for a bake-off where they really don't prepare and practice.

I've had CEOs call me from the plane going over to London for an economic summit. They'll say, "Any last minute advice?" That's one guy in particular I had just started working with. I said, "Well, what are you doing about rehearsing?"

"Oh, I'm going through it in my head."

I said, "So, let me get this straight. You're going to get off the plane in London. You're going to change your clothes. You are then going to get up on the dais and you're going to give this one-hour presentation without ever getting the words out on your tongue." He said, "Yeah." I said, "Well, let me know how that goes." He said, "Why?" and I said, "You've never gotten it out on your tongue. You don't know how it sounds. So, you've only done, really, a quarter of your preparation." And that's what most of us do. We don't prepare.

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