Most great leaders are great communicators. In my previous blog, I shared how to Stand Up, Speak Up, Shut Up, and Sit Down. This is the follow up to that blog and an effort to outline my 3-step process. It takes courage to stand up when it's time to speak up, and you need a proven process to guarantee consistent persuasion. I also know that the process is not easy to grasp at first.
After nearly a decade since I’ve taught my approach to others, I recently attempted to “enlighten” my teammates. Imagine, a screen sharing call with great authors, consultants, and experienced business owners, basically smart people, on the other end of the line. There I am, not even halfway into the call with the realization that I was causing more confusion than clarity. The questions weren’t disagreement; they were due confusion and an effort to seek clarity. Whatever happened to my topic of persuasion and great communication?
I thought long and hard after that call about my unusual approach for preparing to communicate a message, how my process had improved and evolved since the 5th grade, the success I’ve seen with people from all walks of life in numerous professions, and how it’s helped people with a wide variety of intellect to succeed in their chosen profession. The process works, so why not this time? After much thought, I realized that I failed to use the process well in communication with my team.
This is (secretly) my do-over for the Rhythm Systems team and attempt to clarify an approach for a simple, powerful message-packaging process to help you be clearer, better understood, and have greater ability to persuade others to think, plan, say, or do something different.
Here are the three steps to take: 1. Story, 2. Point, and 3. Benefit. Here’s a SlideShare for those who are visual.
This approach seems simple enough, yet pay careful attention to the order that you should practice these steps. The order of development is a minor point for major improvement toward success. Determine who your audience is (young, old, male, female, members of club, etc.) and then prepare the 3-step process in reverse:
First, outline the benefit: What is the gain or benefit (no matter how small) to those who are listening (NOT the benefit to you)? This should be a 1-2 sentence final statement. Write this first so you don’t forget to honor your listener with personal benefit statements – and, so you’ll know where you’re going when you outline the rest of your message. Sample Draft: (Audience: drivers education class) You won’t feel guilty.
Second, determine your Point: What do you want the listening audience to think, plan, say, or do? This should be one sentence that's directive. Tell your listener what to do. It is not a question and should not be ambiguous like “the point I’m trying to make,” or “I hope you can see that what I want to say is,” or “so I’m thinking that we might consider…” Why? Because you are not TRYING to make a point now, it should have already been made in the Story step. Be direct. Say this. Do that. Create such and such. Sample Draft: Always require passengers to wear seatbelts.
Third, outline your Story: This is your chance to pack your listener’s mental bags and take them on a trip with you, explain your diagram or research, offer your statistics, or give necessary background. You are trying to persuade by laying the foundation for the point and benefit that you will soon share. Most of your words and information will be here and all should lead your audience toward the point. Sample Draft: Atlanta, stop and go traffic, since we were driving 10 mph or less, I allowed my son to lay on the van floor and stretch out, hit by dump truck from behind, son thrown 4 feet backwards and bruised on seat frame, hospital visit, my guilt for son being hurt.
Now that you’ve built a solid draft, your verbal or written delivery of the message should be in this order, first the story, then the point, and conclude with the benefit. Here’s the above draft preparation delivered:
(Story) Nineteen years ago, I was in a conversion van with my family traveling through Atlanta, Georgia, in heavy traffic. We’d been in on the road for several hours and my 7-year old son was tired of being belted in a seat. With great persistence, he begged to be able to lie on the van floor. Since we were traveling 2-6 mph in stop and go traffic, I finally relented. For a short time, he got out of the seatbelt, and we were rear-ended by a dump truck. We lurched forward from the impact, and my 7-year-old son was thrown backward when he hit the seat frame. We were concerned that he had broken a bone and were fortunate to be close to a hospital. My son turned out to be OK but could have easily been hurt badly or killed. I still remember waiting to see the doctor and how guilty I felt for relenting and letting him out of the seatbelt. (Point) Make everyone in your vehicle wear a seatbelt ALL the time. (Benefit) You’ll never spend time feeling guilty that you could have prevented a loved one from being hurt.
I’ve spent decades practicing and refining this approach with people of all backgrounds and experience. I taught it to my niece, and she won a speaking contest at school. I’ve had operation managers win people to their way of thinking, and I’m convinced that it will work for you. Use this process for a minimum of five times for five different messages. The benefit to you is that the next time you need to stand up to speak up, you’ll be ready with a powerfully persuasive message. Now, go make your point.