Ellevate San Diego hosted an event at Hera Hub Sorrento Valley about How to Successfully Deliver YOUR Message, given by communications expert Megan Humphreys, Managing Partner of Convé Communications. A seasoned strategic communications executive, Megan has been training C-suite executives in message delivery for media, federal hearings and public meetings for over a decade. She’s trained Fortune-level CEOs, trade association leaders and government officials to get their message across.
What is Messaging?
[Blog transcribed from Megan’s presentation]
We’re going to talk today about how to deliver your message, about what messaging actually is, what it means to actually create what you’re trying to say and share that.
Have you ever had a great idea?
Or have you ever walked into your boss’s office with this great idea or this plan for you to get a raise a promotion, and then you walk out? Did you say exactly what you needed to say to get this raise or promotion that you deserved?
Have you ever had an argument with your significant other and they somehow made better points than you? You may laugh, but I’m married to an attorney, so that has happened.
What in the message causes us to fail? What makes it successful? How can you be a more effective messenger for yourself?
We’re going to talk about how to handle all these situations. I’m gonna give you tools. Some of them we’re going to practice. There will be real-world examples. At the end of it, you should walk out being able to craft a successful message for whatever you want to do. If you want a raise or promotion, or if you have a really great idea that you want your company to implement. You should have a plan for how to do that. Or if you don’t want to watch some stupid show tonight and you go home and want to control the remote you should have a plan for that!
So why am I qualified?
I’m the Founder and Managing Partner of Convé Communications. I started out working for PR agencies in the Washington DC area. I was out there for about 10 years, I did communications work for major national corporations, trade associations, I did federal trainings for hearings, crisis support on the ground for oil spills, all kinds of really fun, exciting things. I moved up here a couple of years ago to work in-house for a pharmaceutical company. I honestly got really tired of working in-house and decided that I wanted to go out on my own.
So about two years ago, I launched Convé. We’re located downtown, we have a team of four in addition to myself.
So the things I did in addition to writing and creating content were I actually trained the C-suite-level executives for interactions that they were going to have with the media. So when somebody did the interview with a magazine, when they ask the hard questions, how are they going to actually answer them? Or if they had to sit on a hearing about the rate increase for the water in the DC area, how were they actually going to address that problem? And so I worked with them and helped them answer those questions. I was helping them deliver a successful message that maybe didn’t always solve all their problems, but at least helped them get their answer across the finish line. And now I specialize in helping companies.
How many times a day do you think you hear the word message?
A lot, right? It’s a very common buzzword. I think it’s becoming more and more common, people talk constantly about how you have to deliver your message, or we’re messaging this, but it’s kind of lost its meaning. What does it actually mean?
How do you get other people to understand your thoughts?
So we get into a simplistic underlying idea, it’s something you’re trying to convey. It’s your point. And so we use message as a verb, as an adjective, as a noun, all of these different ways. It certainly is all these things. But sometimes we lose sight of what the actual message is, right?
What is it? It’s your most simplistic, basic, underlying idea that you’re trying to get across.
Your message should be conveyed in one phrase. So when you go into your boss’s office to say, ‘I deserve a raise for all of these different reasons,’ that’s all part of your argument. Your message is ‘I deserve a raise.’ And sometimes we get really ahead of ourselves [and think we have to say too much]. But what’s your basic point that you’re trying to get across? If you boil it down, you can come up with something that’s really compelling.
Companies often say, ‘Great, we have this new product that’s going to solve all the world’s problems. It’s going to provide a cure for cancer, and it also lowers inflammation. And if we get it out to the market, now, our investors will be happy because their money will skyrocket because we’ll get up to four competitors.’ And that’s a lot of information that you’re trying to convey out there. What’s the most important thing that you’re trying to say here? We have a new product. Okay, step one, got it.
Now we can talk about all these other things and how we organize them. For example, we need to hire additional team members, I have too much work to do, our treatment option is the best new innovation cancer therapy, our company is committed to supporting the community. Whatever that simple message is, and then you can talk about how you’re going to do it, why it matters, and what you’re going to do about it.
Somebody said to me in a salsa class once that you should fall seven times and get up. And all day long I’ve been thinking about this and thinking, ‘This is not the place I should have heard that.’ But it’s really stuck with me. Those failures lead you into actually being successful.
I want you to think about one time you tried to present a message or an argument and you fell flat. Are there any specific characteristics about that time that you think might have caused that message to fail? [Discuss with the people around you to find common themes.]
We get wrapped up in like articulating exactly how we think we’re supposed to say it and then walk out and think,’ I should have said this instead,’ something better. Or else trying to cram too much in and the message just gets diluted because of too much detail. Or emotion [is a big issue].
What causes messages to fail?
The top reason that messages fail is you’ve got too much that you’re trying to put in there. It was organized poorly. Or the audience the person didn’t understand it. Maybe it wasn’t the right audience.
[Megan shows a video of a politician giving a speech that did not make sense]
So what causes your message to fail? Adding too much to it.
We often try to put as much as we can into a particular message. We think that we need to say ‘we deserve a raise and also a promotion and more team members because we’re doing way more work than we should be, I’m working 18 hours a day and it’s just not sustainable.’
If you go into your boss’s office and say that, they would hear the part about work is not sustainable and ask, ‘Is there something we should do to adjust? Maybe you have too much work on your plate? Or maybe we can help streamline your work.’ The boss totally lost the part about the raise and promotion.
We need to rethink what it means to have a message and what supports that message.
What’s your main point?
What are your pillars? Or what are your supporting facts?
When you organize it well, that’s how you can create compelling arguments.
Let’s talk about each part.
So your overarching message is your argument as the most basic point. It’s the thing you want. If you’ve got something that you want, try to boil it down into five to seven minutes, get rid of the flowery language from it. What is the most declarative statement that you can make?
Think back to when you were in first grade, and they had to write statements like, ‘I want a glass of water.’’ Boil it down to that. If you can’t boil it down to that, you’ve got two different messages in there. They might require different conversations, it might require a longer conversation. So if you set out a conversation that is 30 minutes, but you’ve got three messages you want to convey, maybe that conversation turns into 45 minutes, and that’s why you’re not getting everything across.
So it’ll help you figure out supporting facts and pillars of your message. These are the ideas that ladder up to your overarching message, they give you the rationale for it.
‘I deserve a raise because I have been consistently outperforming.’
‘I deserve a raise because I secured three notable placements for my client publications.’
Supporting facts are factual, proven, verifiable things. So it’s not like, ‘I deserve a raise because I’ve been working really hard.’ That is subjective. ‘I deserve a raise because I’m consistently the first person in the office in the morning, and I’m the last person to leave at night. And I’m working hard throughout the day. And my colleagues come to me for constant advice and for mentorship.’ Those kinds of things where you can say your colleagues can support you.
The second reason for failed messaging is that we’re organized. Sometimes we put so much passion in the argument. There are so many things that we want to put in there. But when you say it, it comes out like word vomit. Have you ever gone into a meeting or gone into a discussion and said, ‘Okay, here’s my points, and I wrote them all down’? [A lot of times] we go into the meeting and it just comes out [like the video we watched]. There’s no common sense behind it.
The house model of organizing your message
Next we did the exercise shown below.
Why is it a house? Everybody has lived in a house at some point, a sustainable shelter, we all know what this is like. So it’s super easy to wrap your head around.
The first part is the roof of your house. If you had to replace your roof all the time, that would suck. It costs so much money. So your roof is one of the most important parts of your house, it’s something that you keep sustained throughout whatever your discussion is. Your roof is the message which also sits over the top of your house. It’s what you’re trying to share.
In your house, you have different rooms. So we have a kitchen, bedroom, living room. For the most part, these stay pretty consistent. You might reorder the way to show your house to somebody, you might not show your bedroom. But your mom came over, the tour of the house would be different. And so you might have lots of different points in here, they might shift depending on who you’re talking to.
So if you’re going into say, ‘I think that we need to hire new team members.’ You might have a little bit of a different order when talking to your boss than if you were going to go talk to the CFO about this. And so think about your argument for the CFO is a little bit more financially based and your argument for your direct supervisor might be the amount of time that you’re spending on these projects, the amount of work you’re missing out on.
If you think about the furniture in your house, you get a new couch, you might get a new mattress. These are things that can be changed out. Each room has its own supporting facts like supporting furniture. You can reorder it, you can get rid of something, it just really depends on the audience.
Your foundation you obviously never want to mess with, it is your message just restated again. So when I train executives to think about what they’re going to do in a media interview, when they have a new product coming out, that’s the roof. They may never actually say, ‘Hi, my name is Joe CEO and we have a new product coming out.’ But that’s the basic point they’re trying to get across that day. ‘Hi, my name is Joe CEO, I really want to tell you about this awesome innovation that my company has just created. It’s the safest new technology on the market, it’s been proven by the FDA to have this, it’s been proven in multiple human studies to have this right. And then the second pillar might be it’s going to be cost-effective for patients. Already, we’ve seen it come in at a lower cost than the traditional treatment option. And then the last one might be that patients have lower side effects of it. And we’ve seen this countless studies. And here are the things that I can point to. And this is why you want to make sure that you’re investing in my company because we have this treatment option.’
So that’s a really basic example in the pharmaceutical space, but the same thing can happen for your own messaging. If you guys think back way back to writing when you were younger, that’s exactly what this is. You wrote an intro, you had three paragraphs, then wrote a conclusion that mirrored the intro. It’s the same thing. It’s just a house.
That works because it works for kids. But it works for adults, too. It’s the most basic way to organize an argument. And that’s what your message is, you’re sharing and trying to persuade somebody on your argumentative position. So when you deliver your message, you may not be going to bat with them. It may not be having a knockdown, drag-out fight.
But your discussion is just that, it’s an argument. You have a position you want to share. They’re going to give you feedback on that. And then you’re going to share why they’re going to give you more feedback and then you’re going to respond to that. All of that is located within the house.
Disorganization can cause messages to fail
So in terms of organization, you’ve also heard me say the word three over again. So there are three things I want you to know.
We tend to remember things in odd numbers. And the number three we remember the most easily. It’s not too big. It’s not like this square number. People remember things in threes. There have been lots of studies about it. If you have three things, the audience tends to remember all three of them. They tend to lose the fourth one.
The second thing is just because you have a lot you could say, doesn’t mean there’s a lot to say. So write it all down, put every little point on that paper that you want to make sure you’re sharing. But then look back at it. and think critically about the person that you’re talking to. Does what you’re going to say actually matter to that person? Have that hard conversation with yourself. Sometimes we say too much. And when we say too much, people tend to lose what we really want from them, or what we’re really trying to get them to understand. So when you think through, you can always add on later. But really think hard about does it really matter to that person, that specific point.
And if you’ve got like 10 points in there, the seven left probably don’t matter.
And then the last of my three points is to understand how to push and flag.
We use these in a communications capacity to help train executives to draw attention to something that they want somebody to really pay attention to, you probably are already doing it. When you say, listen, or, hey, here’s what’s important. Those are things that are called flagging, you’re drawing attention to what you want somebody to listen to. So generally, you’re used to compelling points. Here are some examples, the important thing to know is, here’s what I want you to understand, a critical data point is or here’s three things to know. When you do that, naturally, we start to listen. We perk up just a little bit because those are words that we’ve been trained as humans in regular conversation and socialized to understand something important is going to happen now, I should listen to it.
So think about how you put those into your message. ‘I think that we need to really talk about my performance at this company and how I can do a little bit more or how I can be better rewarded for the work that I’m doing. Here are three reasons why.’ All of a sudden, that person has said, ‘Okay, I’m going to listen to it’. Even if they seem like they’re not really fully attempting to. They know there’s three. Point Number one, I’ve been consistently working long days and showing up, putting in the effort. Point number two, I’ve had an excellent work product come out of it. Point number three, my colleagues have shown a great deal of respect for me and are coming to me for additional support for them. And you created this laundry list, which helps somebody start to recognize how you’re sharing something.
Emotions can cause messages to fail
But how else can your message fail? You got emotional. It’s happened to every single person in here.
The first thing I want to make sure that we all understand though, emotional has a really bad connotation. Everybody in this room is a woman. Everybody’s probably been told, ‘don’t get emotional, you’re a woman’ at some point. Or you felt like, ‘Oh my God, why is he able to do that? I can’t, because I’m a woman, I clearly get emotional about it.’ Or at least I have felt like that.
I want you to understand that having emotion is not a bad thing. It’s good. It’s something that we as women have, that we own, and we should harness it. It’s not necessarily that we’re emotional. We have the ability to connect with another human being in a way that a lot of males do not, I know that’s a vast generalization. But I do think that as a general population, we have the ability to create and forge an actual conversation connector, that sometimes men struggle to do.
So I want us to start to shift our thoughts about emotion to passion. You’re passionate about what you want. You’re passionate about what you need. Yes, it can come out in a negative way which can be tears, your voice getting all high and pitchy, getting sweaty, and all the awful things that have happened to us at some point. But it can also be shifted to come out in this really powerful narrative that really demonstrates that you really do care about the company, your ask for your job, your peers. Show that you really care about. So we have to think about how we can power this passion for good and how it can negatively be powered, when it just spirals downward.
So how do you do that?
Much like you teach children to control their emotions. Anybody ever been around a toddler that really wants something and has a total meltdown? Let’s talk about this. We teach them to control their emotions, we can start to teach ourselves how to do this.
So when you have a particularly challenging conversation, start to pay attention to the physiological response that happens within your own body. I get hot, it’s the very first thing that happens, and I can start to feel it. And then my voice starts to shake a little bit. So start to recognize how your body responds. Everybody’s body is going to respond differently. And once you already know it’s going to happen, it’s not really a surprise. You kind of knew that was going to happen, you can start to think about how you can control it.
There’s all kinds of tricks, deep breaths, making sure your practice, making sure that you’ve already shared everything with somebody previously and they poked holes in it. All that stuff is really important. It’s really, really good. But it only works if you start to think critically about how you’re going to physically respond when you’re placed in that situation. So we do a lot of training with executives because the same thing happens to them. Just because you see a CEO on CNBC and he’s giving a really awesome rationale for something, he’s been trained to do that. And I can tell you from experience, it’s a lot that goes into some of these people, you would be amazed. They have a really hard time making eye contact. They have a really hard time not fiddling with their hands or clicking a pen. They get really flustered when you ask them a really tough question. And you have to train them to say, ‘Okay, why are you reacting this way.’
So think about how your body starts to react. Prepare yourself for that. Understand, it’s probably going to keep happening. But if you know you’re going to get really hot, wear a sleeveless shirt. If you know that you start to pick up your pace, make a conscious effort to slow it down. And ask your friends what you do also, because they should be honest with you, ask them to give you feedback. Those types of things can help you control the negative aspect of the emotion and allow you to add that feeling of ‘I want this so bad.’ It is something positive, which is your passion, which you really want to come across. It’s a lot harder to argue with somebody, when they’re very passionate, and they’re really sharing all they feel, compared to somebody standing up here and saying, ‘Well, I think I deserve a raise because of all these things.’
Your message will fail if your audience doesn’t understand it
And then lastly, what causes your message to fail, is the audience didn’t understand it.
Emotion can be distracting, but creating an emotional connection with your audience is one of the most powerful things you can do. People like to feel like things are their ideas. You ever had a conversation with somebody and then all of a sudden, whatever you wanted, they kind of took as their idea. And then somehow it got across the finish line, because they helped you along. Now it’s annoying if they take the credit for it. But if you really want something, and you can use them to help you, why not? I think you’re a little bit smarter than them because you recognize that they can help you get there. And so what if they think it’s their idea.
The best thing to do is to find common ground with your audience, what is the thing that you guys have in common? Let’s go back to the conversation about your boss with you wanting a promotion. You deserve this promotion, it’s going to make you feel valued. Your boss is probably going to get you to show up to work and show a little bit more morale for the company, the morale of the rest of the company will probably be raised because you’re going to be happy to be there and the people around you will be happy to be there. So what’s the common ground that you can find with your audience? ‘I think that this is going to work out for both of us and here’s why.’ Understanding the lens through which your boss is going to view this, if you can color it and a little bit rose-colored for yourself by saying, ‘Listen, I’ve been working really hard. I deserve it for all of these reasons, here are the facts that support it. Also to I can tell you, I’ve been feeling a little undervalued here right now.’ That should [resonate] if you got a good boss, and they don’t want to lose you. That should get them to think, ‘oh, shoot, I might lose her if I’m not showing her the same kind of support that she’s clearly showing this company.’ That creates that common ground to make them feel like they’re part of the idea.
So politics aside, I think that one of the greatest examples that I’ve ever experienced is Barack Obama. His ability to create connection with people is one I’ve never seen better, in his 2004 democratic campaign. Talking about his background. I have very little in common with him. There’s nothing similar about us. But you listen to his [speech], and you kind of started to feel bought into it because of his delivery, but also the way that he shares the story on the stage. His father, my grandfather, through hard work and perseverance… My father got a scholarship to study in a magical place. America is shown as a beacon of freedom and opportunity.
He takes this background of his dad growing up in a shed in Kenya and herding goats, which I can’t even begin to imagine what that’s like, I don’t understand. But then he started talking about hard work and perseverance. And I think I have perseverance. Then he talks about wanting what’s best for your kids, and working really hard, getting the scholarship, was able to send people off to school and to learn. Then he takes it to America, and everybody in that room is an American. He takes it from this really far place, but he’s able to forge this connection with the people in a room.
Now, that’s a super extreme example, but start to think about what you might have in common with the audience that you’re talking to. And I use the word audience but it might be one person. It’s the individual that you’re speaking to, the group of two or three people that you’re speaking to, think about what your common connection is before you even walk into the room. Then harness onto that. That emotional connection is going to create a way that your argument isn’t going to necessarily immediately fall flat. They’re going to feel a little bit more bought into what you’re saying.
So when somebody here said it’s hard to create an emotional connection with somebody over email. How many people have ever gotten an email that said, ‘thanks,’ period, and you think, ‘Oh, my God.’ If the person usually says ‘thanks,’ exclamation point, and they say ‘thanks,’ period, you think, ‘what did I do?’ That kind of stuff happens in emails, it’s really hard.
Phones can be really hard. It’s hard to have this kind of back and forth and see the person. You can create an emotional experience between the two of you by having the interaction in person by already having the rationale for why you think that they should be bought into what you’re doing, and seeing how they respond to it.
So every single person in this room is giving feedback right now, I can tell that you’re listening to me, things are resonating because you’re naturally nodding your head, you’re making eye contact with me. If you thought I was full of sh*t, you’d be texting on your phone. And I would be like, ‘Okay, this is embarrassing for me.’ Those are the kinds of things that you get from conversations with people. If you do a call with somebody, you have no idea what they’re doing. If they’re really listening to you. So find the emotional connection, find the common ground, and then use the person when it’s possible to make that happen.
So while you might not go into your boss’s office and say, ‘you should definitely give me a promotion, because if not, I’m going to quit and that’s going to suck for you.’ You might go in and say, ‘Listen, I’ve been feeling really undervalued here, but it really doesn’t matter to me. I like working with you. I think that you provide excellent mentorship. I’m learning a lot, I’m growing, but I don’t want to lose that opportunity. But I’m feeling really undervalued. And I need to find a place that values me for what I’m providing. I want it to be here.’ Now they’re going to get it.
What makes your message stick
How do you make your argument resonate? I think there are five things.
- You have a clear purpose. The first couple of these are just the reverse of what makes it fail. When your purpose is clear to you, which is the most important thing, you’re more likely to share a clear purpose with your audience. So if you don’t understand what your message is, there’s no way they’re going to understand what your message is. If you can’t get it done in one sentence, there’s no way that they’re going to walk out of there and know what that one sentence was. A concise purpose is easier to support, and more importantly, to defend. So you think about having to go in and you have to defend your argument. If you make it really complex, you’re going to have to know all the holes and potential pitfalls. If it’s more simple, that’s a lot easier than defending a fortress with 15 different entrances. And it’s just you being like, here, here, here, here. Practice it.
- You have a well-organized argument. Organizing your argument allows you to be prepared. You’ve already addressed any potential challenges, and you’ve identified potential solutions to those challenges. This is where that message house comes in. You’ve also backed it up with facts. You can use the message house. I want you to come up with two to three points, proof points for pillars, your rooms, on why do you deserve the raise? And then underneath there, come up with one specific fact that’s important.
- You create a connection with your audience. Humans crave connection, we want to feel connected to each other. By nature, we want to communicate with each other, we want to find a common ground. So think about any time you’ve walked into a networking event. The first thing you ask somebody is where they work. Why do you ask them that? Because then you really find something in common with them. We naturally crave that your message has to speak to your audience. And not only that, but has to engage your audience. So when you think about the way to share your message, you have to figure out how your audience is going to be bought into that message.
- Demonstrate what makes you uniquely qualified to have this specific discussion or to message this specific thing. So effective communicators explain why they are the most important spokesperson for a particular topic. They have their specific title on why they are most qualified and we trust that they’re the experts. So you’re the expert in this particular subject matter, if it’s something that you want, it’s you. You are the expert in you. Why are you the expert here because there’s nobody else that understands you exactly what you do and understands why you need exactly what you need, right? Be able to position yourself as the expert there. And when you do that, you immediately elevate yourself and get people to listen to you. Come up with the reasons why uniquely qualified to talk about this. So when you talk about wanting to organize things for your boss, and you value organization, why are you the most qualified to ask for this organization system, because you’ve seen firsthand the power of this organization that you’ve created, the power that he has created with his organization system, and the problem that creates for other people maybe in the office that are not as organized. You’re able to see both sides of that. He’s probably not able to see that because you’re probably keeping him really on track to see you can do a good job with that. So you’re the biggest expert in the office on that. He doesn’t have that same visibility that you do. If you’re saying we need more team members, maybe your supervisor isn’t seeing it, because you’re doing such a good job of making sure everything gets accomplished. Because you’re taking on extra work, because there’s a slot to be filled. So you have that visibility, that they’re not necessarily seeing it, so the problem. The problems are not necessarily reaching them, because you’re creating that solution. Which is great, you’re awesome at your job, but that’s not sustainable. So making yourself the experts.
- The most important thing that you can do is to restate what you want. You’ve just shared a whole laundry list of things that back up what you want. Chances are, you’ve had a lengthy conversation. At the end of the conversation, it’s really important that you restate exactly what you want, because you’re going to walk out of that room. And the person is going to remember the reasons why we need more team members because the morale is low, or we just need more team members. You don’t want them to walk out thinking the quality of our work product sucks. No, we need more team members. That’s the solution here. So one of the biggest challenges that I find with the individuals that I train is that every single reporter under the sun will always end the conversation with ‘Do you have anything else to say?’ And the most infuriating thing that they can do is they can say no. Because that is a freebie that was a softball. That was a way for you to just say what you wanted one more time. So before you leave, say ‘thanks so much for talking to me about why I think we need more team members,’ or ‘thanks so much for talking to me about my future in this company.’ Just reinforce that point. To reinforce the point afterward, you can send them an email. ‘Thank you for talking to me about my future in the company.’ And then even if they forget anything, then they remember.
You have a clear purpose. You have a well-organized message. You create the connection. You share your why, and you restate your purpose.
[She showed a video on Leonardo DiCaprio speaking on climate change]
I think what’s really powerful about this is that he’s an actor, so why is he qualified to talk about this? He told you, I’m a UN ambassador for climate, he tells you exactly why he’s qualified to talk about it. And then he explains to you, I’ve seen forests in Indonesia. I’ve seen this happen. So here are all the reasons that we need to talk about this right now. And he goes on, he gives his points, and then at the very end he reinforces it. He draws in the audience by saying, this was a big deal when Abraham Lincoln was around, here was his challenge. Words that you wrote about that challenge resonate today. We’re all here today. So we start to create this connection, he draws you in, explains why he should be talking about this. And then gives you actionable kind of things that are happening, that are really fact-based. It’s really hard to say ‘I don’t think any forests are burning,’ when you could probably Google that.
Successful message delivery
Do it in person when possible. It’s scary. It’s hard. Nobody likes to talk to somebody in person, because what if you don’t get the right response. But how do you know the response that you’re getting if they’re on the phone or if they’re an email? They might totally misconstrue what you’re saying if it’s an email, exclamation point versus period… very dramatic, very different. And now on the phone, you might not have their full attention. So if it’s not possible in person, try to do it via webinar to force them to actually look at you.
Slow down. The most important part I can say. Whatever you’re saying, it should feel like you are literally talking Slo Mo. But everybody gets in front of somebody and immediately picks up. Your adrenaline starts to rush and normal physiological reactions happen in your body and your heart starts to race. And then you start to talk faster. So slow down, and then pause.
One of the things that we counsel people to do is to use different conversation tactics to control the conversation. When you have that really pregnant pause, people listen, because nobody likes it when it’s silent. Something must be happening, especially if you have been talking a lot, then all of a sudden, you’re quiet.
If you can focus on certain words, and elevate your voice on other things, really start to think about how you talk with your friends. And how you have conversations with the people that you’re comfortable with. When you slow down, when you get a little bit deeper to really convey something, and then start to use those things in your own conversations when you’re having these messaging conversations.
Lastly, this is really important. We want to make connections with people but it is really scary. There’s always that awkward, ‘have I made eye contact for way too long’ kind of thing. But if that’s the case, if you’re concerned about that, look away for a second and look back, it’s not a big deal to do that. It is creepy to make eye contact with somebody for 10 minutes, you should not do that.
It’s going to be stressful. Don’t let it stress you out. Be prepared to pivot and address questions. So that’s why you do the prep work. That’s where you write down all the different things and you think about different holes that people can poke into it. Because no matter what, even if you get up in front of your mirror and you practice it 15 times and you share your message with your friends, you’re going to walk in your boss’s office and they’re going to ask you a question totally out of left field, and you’re going to have to come up with an answer for it.
So pause, say, ‘That’s a really good question. Let me think.’ And do that. That’s okay. Don’t just answer the question. Take a second. It’s okay. And then when you feel ready, don’t wait for like 10 minutes, answer the question. Or if you don’t have an answer, say, ‘That’s a really good question. I didn’t really think about it like that. Let me get back to you.’ And then get back to them.
What I did want to talk about is this and bridge into the next conversation that you wanted to have. It’s always okay to say, ‘I don’t really have that answer right now. Or I don’t have that on me. Let me go back to my desk and I’ll send it to you. But first, before I leave this room, what I really wanted to talk to you about is this.’
So how can you be an effective messenger for yourself? Think critically about your underlying message. Really think that one of your most basic, succinct points is good, ask yourself that hard question. And if you’re not sure, it’s probably not it. Ask somebody else around you, ask people you trust. ‘This is what I want. How would you say this?’ What is the most basic thing and if you’re saying I want a promotion because of x,y&z – I want a promotion. I’m really stressed at work. Why are you stressed at work if you have too much work on your plate? Or maybe you don’t have the right support system around you? Maybe you’re not feeling valued, whatever the most distinct messages, try to really boil it down to that and then ask yourself, Is this really right? What else could it be?
Write it down, organize it well, practice it in your head, do it in front of a mirror. If I’m going to do a phone conversation with somebody, I literally give it in front of a mirror. It’s super awkward and I walk around my house in front of mirrors, to another friend of yours, or another friend of yours. And my husband’s like, ‘what are you doing?’ But it helps me to have that interaction with myself because it keeps my energy up. So practice the same way. Because if you just sit there and you’re like, ‘Okay, and I say that, and I say this, I’m gonna say that.’ That’s cool. That’s valuable. But actually practice what your emotion is going to be like, how you’re going to actually share something and see what you look like when you do it. Because then when you go in the room, you already know what you look like when you do that. She looks like a badass, right? You saw yourself do this, you’re ready to go.
Before you go in, take a breath.
When you’re done, seek feedback. If you were in front of a group of people, or you had people in the audience that you trusted, ask them. If there were a couple of people around the table that had valuable opinions, ask them, they should be able to give it to you.
But then also think about what you did, how you felt, and what it looked like from the other person, what was their response to it? And then self-critique on that, make notes of that. The only way that we learn and grow and get up that next time is to think critically about what we’ve done and how successful it was or where we can improve.