Influence is a more precious commodity than ever before. In a typical top-down hierarchical structure, your position defines the amount of influence you have. Or, as the CEO of Authentic Leadership Alliance, Susan Tradanico, puts it, “The person with the power has the influence.” But as we move towards flatter, more team-based structures, it becomes less about the job title and more about your own ability to make things happen outside of traditional reporting lines. In other words, “The person with the influence has the power” and you build influence using your communication techniques.
Now think about your own ability to influence – and be honest with yourself. Just how good are you at winning the hearts and minds of stakeholders?
You may think it’s enough to have your facts and data speak for itself. After all, what you’re communicating is way more important than how you communicate, right?
Think again. While it’s, of course, important to have substance, the way in which you communicate to stakeholders can actually have a marked effect on the success of your proposal or project – including, believe it or not, how much profit it generates.
Did you know, for example, that companies with effective communication techniques have 47% higher total returns to stakeholders over a five-year period, and are 3.5 times more likely to outperform their competitors? When you look at stats like that, investing in your communication skills to increase your influence is a no-brainer.
If you’re serious about building your influence and making your next presentation or proposal a rousing success, here’s just a taster of some of the skills that we teach in our Mastering Communication Program. We guarantee these skills will help you to sway even the most difficult stakeholder.
Give PowerPoint a break
A few slides can add some colour and zest to a presentation, if they are used very mindfully – but I would say 95% of the time, they aren’t. Instead, they are dull, distracting, and only serve to take the audience’s focus away from where it should be: on your message. In most cases, you’d be much better off doing away with PowerPoint slides altogether and focusing on other communication techniques…
While letting go of the PowerPoint crutch might seem a little scary, it will do wonders for your presentation style, as the staff at The Good Guys found when they implemented the teachings from the Mastering Communication program into their own organisation. “Post–Colin James, we’ve literally removed all PowerPoint slides,” says National Learning and Development Manager, Carolyne French. “Everything now is run using flip charts: we build it and we draw it out. That’s had an amazing impact for us.”
If you want more tips on how to present without PowerPoint, check out our free ebook Stand out from the crowd: Present without PowerPoint in 7 easy steps.
Tell a story
Stories are magical things and an incredibly strong communication technique when used well. They can transport the listener to another place, evoke strong emotions, and persuade far more convincingly than any graph or spreadsheet ever could. They are, therefore, incredibly powerful tools when it comes to building your influence and winning over stakeholders, as Chris Hastie, Health Service Planner at Sydney Children’s Hospital, learned when he undertook the Mastering Communication Program.
“I would have used [storytelling] prior, but I wouldn’t have relied on it,” he says. “Whereas now, I always open with a strong story, which I use for a case of change or a need for a meeting.”
When giving the presentation, it can be easy to get caught up worrying about how you’ll look, what’ll you say, whether you’ll speak well, and so on. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: an effective presentation is not actually about you. It’s about your audience, and what value they will get out of the presentation.
There’s an easy way to ensure your presentation is highly relevant to your audience, and it’s a technique we like to call “setting the why frame”. Your audience will be asking themselves these 4 questions:
- Why should I listen to this?
- Why is this going to make any difference to me?
- Why is this going to add value to my life?
- Why is this going to make any impact on the way that I might do things?
Your job is simply to make sure these questions are answered by the end of the presentation.
This technique works, as Kelly Shay, former Stakeholder Relations and New Business Manager at AustralianSuper, will attest. “Using the principles of ‘what’s in it for the audience’, starting with the why, and really understanding the key points I wanted to get across helped me to stay on focus throughout the presentation. It also helped the audience to understand where I was going,” she says.
Want to take your influence to the next level?
We know that investing in your communication skills and improving your techniques will help you build your influence, win over stakeholders, and establish yourself as a leader in your organisation. Of course, we may be a bit biased… but you don’t have to take our word for it.
Here’s what Carolyne had to say about the Mastering Communication Program: “From an investment perspective and looking at the results you get from it, it’s worth every dollar.”
Are you ready to climb the next rung of the corporate ladder? Sign up for the Mastering Communication Program now!
The Colin James Method® Facilitators train corporate executives to improve their professional communication skills with a proven methodology. Our highly trained Facilitators and Coaches are recognised for their experience in their fields and have worked with many individuals and organisations around the world to master the art of communication.
Erica Bagshaw is an entrepreneur, Executive Coach and Co-Founder of The Colin James Method® and Inner Profit Pty Ltd a vibrant leadership development company in Australia. She has spent the majority of her career growing and developing close client partnerships. She loves sharing her expertise on the perfect pitch.