Charismatic communication demands a transaction between speaker and listeners, and, as with most forms of fair-trading, customer satisfaction is predicated on exchanging things of equal value. For example, in exchange for a piece of electronic equipment at your local electrical store, you hand over its alleged value in dollars. In effect, the salesman buys your money with the piece of equipment.
Similar dynamics apply when you seek to buy people's commitment to your proposals or ideas. So, what currency do you need to use to purchase attention and a fair hearing from your audience? The currency comes in three denominations:
1. Discovery 2. Groundwork 3. Dialogue
You can choose to spend a reasonable amount of time in discovery mode. It's part of a process of learning about the people you intend to influence. It enables you to gain an insight into their personal worldviews, and the information you gather enables you to respect fully their models of the world and talk their particular dialect.
Groundwork is also a key element, as it represents the preparation phase, of involving others in discussion and debate on the desirability and value of your position and ideas. It enables you to respond with feedback and engage in a mutual search for alternatives. It also provides you with the opportunity to informally test ideas on potential adversaries and modify your approach as you go along.
You can test, revise, hone, and polish your message before you arrive at a final product that incorporates the key needs of your target group. There are many benefits in accommodating other people's concerns, ideas and solutions into your final strategy or proposal. Your groundwork phase can often save you from embarrassing and sometimes perilous consequences.
Dialogue is the art of talking with people rather than talking at them or pretending to consult. It can occur during every stage of the communication process. Formal dialogue, as in a presentation or proposal, best occurs at the stage when you are certain of winning assent and support.
Open dialogue encourages commitment and motivation. It alerts you to the emotional temperature of your audience or group and avoids having an idea or strategy stall through covert opposition and resistance at every turn.
GROUNDWORK AND DISCOVERY
It may not always be possible to know the individual needs, values, or beliefs of larger audiences. So, some communications, presentations, and speeches are necessarily "catch-all" affairs where you may use other powers of persuasion to draw listeners into shared space to discuss the merits of your ideas. Size of crowd, media speeches and interviews, diversity of the congregation, and other factors, sometimes make it difficult to gain an accurate measure of your audience. Never the less, it would be foolhardy to deliver a presentation to a group of people about whom you knew nothing.
Consider extolling the virtues of Australian beef to a group of Vegans, advocating Judaism to a gathering of Shiite fundamentalists, or telling Irish jokes at a Celtic Club. The point is that if you want your listeners to like and trust you, you must tailor your message to the people you're seeking to persuade.
Even rudimentary knowledge about your audience is better than none. But, the more information you have about your listeners, the better you will be able to communicate your message using their language register. After all, if a small or large group comes together to listen to you, it must, by definition, have something in common.
When you align your content with the audience's belief and value structures, you send the signal "We are of the same mind". High-order 'sameness' is one of the most important factors determining whether your presentation will win the day or fall on deaf ears. The more your audience views you and itself as being of one mind, the more receptive it will be to your ideas and proposals.
People make rapid, unconscious calculations on the degree of one-mindedness they share with others, based on finding answers to the following questions:
- Does the speaker/leader think like I do, or think like I want to think, and have a similar attitude and approach?
- Does the speaker/leader share and reflect my core beliefs and values?
- Does s/he share my traditions: roots, culture, education and background?
Approach, attitude, beliefs, and values are significant elements people apply in determining one-mindedness. In important situations when much is riding on the success of your presentation, it would be folly to misalign or mismatch the beliefs and values of your audience.
There are two principle ways to discover and mirror the beliefs and values of your audience or target group.
1. research and/or elicit them
2. mirror universal values and virtues
In researching the values and beliefs of your audience, speak to the client group before the presentation and ask questions along the lines of "What are the things that are important to you in bringing this product to market?" or "Why is it important to you to be seen as an independent operator?" The key part of your questions should be what, why, or how, is something important. If you listen closely to the responses, you will hear words that represent values, beliefs, and deeply held attitudes. Ask questions about:
- Where people stand on particular issues - their values and beliefs?
- What are the interesting aspects of particular corporate cultures?
- Where is the group focus at the moment?What the primary needs are of the group - what does the group absolutely have to have in order to feel satisfied and fulfill
- What particular challenges or special circumstance confront the group at the momen
- What does the group need to have in order to achieve its goals?
If you have been invited to speak to larger groups make a point of finding out as much as you can about the composition of your audience. Gathering the following types of information:
- What are the basic demographics of the group: age range, gender, positional rank, social background, educational level, etc.?
- What are the expectations of the audience? What do they expect of you and how has your presentation or speech been promoted?
- Ask about attitudes, schools of thought, or general political persuasions. A group of liberal lawyers will require a different approach than a group of CBD accountants.
- Discover as much as you can about the group or organisation that has invited you to speak. What is its history, what are its aims and objectives and what is its main thrust at the moment?
- Find out if there are any specific issues the group is lobbying for or on which they have tgaken a strong position
- Who are the group's patrons and senior membership?
In Part Two of this article, you will review how to integrate this information into your formal dialogue with an audience.
(c) Desmond Guilfoyle 2004 - 2006
Desmond Guilfoyle is author of three books on charisma, impression management and influence. 'The Charisma Effect' has been publiished in seven languages. He advises polititians, CEOs and media performers on imagistics, profile building and media savvy. He can be contacted at Mondodec@tpg.com.au Further articles and information is available at his blog http://charismacom.blogspot.com/