Being an effective speaker is considered a key executive competency, but it is also something of a dying art. People are relying more and more on digital communication, and studies show that listeners’ attention spans are getting shorter. Still, speaking is a more effective mode of communication than writing because vocal intonations help clarify meaning that gets lost when a message is written, and people focus their attention on the speaker.
McGowan finds there is a communications gender gap in the corporate world. Women have to walk a fine line between being seen as too empathetic or nice and being seen as bossy or inflexible. Men, on the other hand, do not have to deal with the same kinds of stereotypes. Women tend to back into their messages because they like to establish support for an idea before actually explaining it. Men tend to be less empathetic, so are often not as effective at explaining how an idea might help others.
But not all communication issues are gender-based. People can be poor communicators because they focus too much on irrelevant details, make the same point over and over, rely on clichés, or continually edit what they just said, a habit called verbal backspacing. To help speakers overcome any quirks that keep them from being good communicators, McGowan recommends seven principles of persuasion:
1. The headline principle: Speakers should grab their audiences’ attention at the start.
2. The Scorsese principle: Speakers should create imagery with words to hold listeners’ attention
3. The pasta-sauce principle: Speakers should boil down their messages to make them strong and concise.
4. The no-tailgating principle: Speakers should talk slowly while thinking about what to say next.
5. The conviction principle: Speakers can show certainty with their words, tone, and eye contact.
6. The curiosity principle: Good conversationalists are interested in other people and what they have to say.
7. The Draper principle: Speakers should keep the conversation focused on their areas of strength.
To learn these principles and put them into practice, people can focus on learning and using one principle at a time. Individuals can study speakers on television to see how they display various principles, and they can evaluate their own use of the principles by reviewing recordings or videos of themselves speaking.