Three Bad Communication Habits and Three Easy Fixes

At the 2017 Propelify Innovation Festival, Michael Chad Hoeppner of GK Training and Communications, offered three key habit changes entrepreneurs can make to become more effective and efficient communicators. His approach was two-step. First, think about your audience. Then, tackle the common problem that arises when speaking to:

  1. The Newbie – The person who knows nothing about you or your business
  2. The Skeptic – The person who has one burning question (or objection) in their mind. Typically, a V.C. or potential investor.
  3. The Customer – Anyone who could or currently uses your product or service

Once you’ve identified your audience, here are three key changes you can make to ensure your communication hits the mark, even under times of stress.

1. Communicating with The Newbie

When communicating with people unfamiliar with their business or product, many entrepreneurs start talking way too much, and providing way too many nitty-gritty details about themselves, their business, and their product. The result? An overwhelmed and often-times confused Newbie. The solution to this verbal over-share? Keep it simple. Before sharing your business with someone you’ve never met before, work on distilling down exactly what you do. Then, explain what you do in the plainest words possible. Michael’s example of his own work? “I help people speak well.”

Exercise: Use the five fingers on your hand to count off the five monosyllabic words that describe you or your business. Break this answer out the next time someone asks you what you do!

2. Communicating with The Skeptic

Great job! You’re communicating with The Skeptic, typically a person in power or with major  influence who could really help you and your company. The Skeptic often has one burning question in mind when communicating with you: What’s your go-to market strategy? What’s your revenue model? Why do you think anyone is going to buy what you’re offering?

When The Skeptic raises their one burning question, most of us immediately get nervous, feel anxious, and begin speaking without thinking, giving a response filled with stammering, “ums,” and no real substance. The Skeptic’s burning question goes unanswered, and the overall impression is one of rapid-fire rambling, not a detailed answer about your amazing new product.

Exercise: Have a friend ask you a burning question you would encounter in a stressful situation (pitching a V.C. for funding, a media interview, etc.). Once the burning question is asked of you, turn the tables and ask your friend a clarifying question. This will buy you a little time to collect yourself, and the clarifying question will help you respond – in exactly the way The Skeptic wants to hear.

3. Communicating with The Customer

You’re finally in a position where you get to explain your business or product to a wide audience of potential customers, like the media, at an event, or during a panel at a conference. The problem? When we are so excited to share about our product or service, we end up speaking too fast, throwing in a bunch of jargon that alienates the average consumer, and find our nervous habits, like fidgeting or shifting weight, exacerbated.

Exercise: Pretend you’ve been given an opportunity to speak about yourself, product, or business to a wide audience, like on a podcast or TV show you love. Once you’ve come up with your spiel, practice giving your speech – with an impediment between your teeth. The physical impediment will force you to slow down when you speak and use plain, clear language – perfect practice for public speaking.

Watch highlights from Michael’s talk at the 2017 Propelify Innovation Festival:

Want to hear more about improving your communication skills?  Sign up for a complimentary Propelify Insider membership and receive future access to our library of incredible content and talks from innovators, changemakers, and entrepreneurial geniuses like Al Gore, Divyank Turakhia, Arianna Huffington, Jason Fiefer, Marcus Weldon and more.

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