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Writing vs. Speaking: Do you know how to get your ideas across both ways?

Hint: they’re very different! 

Here’s a challenge for you: Find a memo or brochure about your organization or the products you sell – any written text at least five paragraphs or longer. Now read it out loud into a recording device. (You’re probably holding one in your smartphone.)

Tell the truth. Were you able to read it all the way through from start to finish without stumbling, without mispronouncing anything or tripping over a word, name or phrase? (Most people – not even trained announcers – can’t on the first try.)

Even if you didn’t flub a line, listen objectively to your recording. You can almost always tell when you’re reading written words. You just don’t sound natural, genuine. You’ll sound… well, scripted. And in our media-savvy world, “scripted” is just another word for “phony”.

Often, vital business messages must be delivered verbally. They’re spoken during presentations or webinars; at trade shows; during media interviews; or at meetings with employees, clients, government regulators or the public. Yet the majority of business people (and a surprising percentage of senior executives) remain more comfortable, more conversant and more accomplished with communicating in writing than by speaking.

Understanding the different strategies and skills for delivering verbal messages is knowledge worth acquiring. How you look and sound while speaking establishes your levels of clarity and credibilty, thus determining how effectively you persuade people to embrace and act upon your ideas.

Over 20 years ago, EMA’s Public Relations + Public Affairs practice began providing media training, preparing executives and spokespersons for interviews with news reporters.

“Soon after we began, our training team observed that whenever the resulting news coverage ended up unsatisfactory, the problem inevitably ocurred at the point the interviewee was speaking to the reporter,” said Peter Kapcio, one of EMA’s senior trainers. “What the spokespersons thought they were conveying and what the reporters actually understood were two vastly different things.”

“That’s when we threw the conventional industry approach to media training in the trashcan,” said Kapcio.

Regardless of the situation in which you will be speaking, the key to effective verbal communication requires two unique preparation steps.

First, Step One. Whatever messages you intend to deliver, they must be developed and composed to be “complete units of thought”, using a method EMA trainers call “talking backwards”.

Effective messages are not a simple “talking point” or a mere “sound bite.” Instead, they must be fully-supported assertions designed to lead the recipient to a persuasion-, information- or empathy-based conclusion… a complete ‘start-to-finish’ thought.

The most powerful verbal messages are deliberately constructed to include three components: [1] a statement or assertion, followed by [2] a proof point or example to back it up and [3] an explantion of the implication, or “what it means” for the listeners.

We call it “The 3P Formula”. In shorthand, the 3Ps = POINT + PROOF + PAYOFF. To illustrate…

Here’s a mere claim: “I think the stock market is going up.”

Now here’s a fully-formed message: “Evidence tells us the stock market is heading up [point]. We know the Fed is easing [proof1], corporations are flush with cash [proof2] and the S&P 500’s future earnings projections are up 3%. [proof3] So it’s a great time to add to your IRA [payoff].”

Applying the 3P Formula automatically enables “talking backwards”, because it requires the speaker to put the conclusion first; in other words, beginning with “What’s the point?” Communications research tells us this is the way people comprehend best, and it also supports both clarity and credibility in every message.

But you mustn’t overlook the critical Step 2. Messages must be practiced spoken out loud… they are not scripts to be read! Saying them out loud is the only way to identify and remove awkwardisms, stumbles and mispronouncements. Use a recorder. Ask colleagues, others to listen and make suggestions. Edit them to make them briefer, tighter, crisper, always using your own words. Then learn them so well that you can deliver them without sounding like you’re reciting.

All the training programs EMA offers: Media Training, Crisis Communications Training, Managing Public Meetings and Governmental Advocacy Training apply these central teachings of verbal communications skills, adapted to the specific demands of each situation and environment. Apply them in your world, and you’ll find yourself becoming a more compelling speaker or presenter.

For more information contact:

Peter Kapcio
Eric Mower + Associates
Phone: (315) 413-4292
pkapcio@mower.com