Friday, April 16, 2010

Getting Focus and Understanding

If I had lived in the 18th century, I would definitely have liked being in Benjamin Franklin’s circle of friends. He was obviously a cool dude, for he was one of the most influential of the Founding Fathers (a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution), prolific author, inventor, musician, leading diplomat and a persuasive speaker who believed in the concept of an American nation.

From his writings it appears he grappled with some of the same communication issues we face today. A quote – perhaps first articulated by Confucius, but today credited to Benjamin Franklin – is one I use often to illustrate the importance the mind and emotions play in understanding and comprehension.

Tell me and I will forget
Show me and I might remember
Involve me and I will understand
-Benjamin Franklin

Getting an audience to focus and stay focused on your message is difficult. The normal attention span ranges between five and 20 seconds. Complicating matters is new research that suggests that the brain may actually be wired to wander. Because someone is sitting in a chair and looking like she's listening doesn’t guarantee she necessarily is.

An audience is always asking “What’s in it for me, and why should I listen to you?” Effective communication is a dialogue between you and your audience. You need to go deeper to make an emotional connection because eyes and ears have lousy memories.

The following tips will help you capture and maintain attention to get people to listen.

1. You must link your message to needs or self-interests to involve an audience.
2. Use internal summaries to tell where you've been and where you're going
3. Create word pictures to illustrate a point.
4. Use clear visuals to support and enhance your words.

Remember, communication is not a one way street, and it's hard work!