Award-winning communication expert Richard Newman, founder of corporate consultancy Body Talk, will be publishing his new guide, You Were Born To Speak, this month.
Business Leader caught up with Richard to find out more about the book, his work and the importance of effective communication.
How can applying the techniques outlined in your new book, You Were Born To Speak, help businesses and individuals to improve their performance?
The best idea doesn’t necessarily win. The most qualified person doesn’t always get the job. The best products often fail. Ideas, products and people need excellent communication skills in order to succeed. Businesses are driven forward by great ideas being effectively communicated so that people are motivated to act on them. Increasing your impact in communication skills allows you to fulfil your true potential and can create exponential results by transforming the reactions you get to all of your products and ideas.
What would you say has been your biggest success story from a coaching perspective?
An engineering company asked us to help them win large government contracts. They used to win roughly one in four and were hoping to improve this. Over the course of one year coaching their team they won every contract we coached them for, gaining £1.2bn in new business. Other clients have gained promotions, business investment, or simply shifted from a terror of public speaking to having the confidence to walk on stage and earn a standing ovation.
All professionals have to give presentations but how can they best keep the listeners’ attention?
There are two big problems that I often see. Firstly, people say, ‘I feel nervous at first but I gradually feel better when I start speaking.’ Secondly, people often leave the best bits of information for the end, hoping for big applause and are met with stony silence.
The best way to keep attention is to win it in the first two minutes. You need to start as good as you are ever going to be, so practise the first minute of your talk ten times over — so that you are ready to speak with confidence from the moment you begin. Secondly, give people a reason to keep listening.
I once heard a lady talk about the environment. She talked us through various steps and procedures. Within ten minutes most of the audience had switched off. At the end she said, “…and that’s how you can all personally save £1,000 per year on your home energy bills!” If she had said that at the beginning then people would have realised the personal benefit of listening.
By saving this to the end people had no strong, personal incentive to listen. So put your benefits at the start, build suspense, then gradually pay off the promise as you speak.
How can techniques learned in drama school be applied to a business setting?
Many people think acting school is about pretending to be a tree and doing Shakespeare. In fact, at a high quality academy you spend 40 hours per week studying communication skills – how to sit, stand, move, breathe and speak in a way that captivates attention, as well as how to have presence and be a great storyteller. These are all essential skills if you want to drive ideas forward in your business.
What advice would you give to somebody who believes they are a good communicator but is not getting the results they want?
It’s important to be humble and question where your confidence in communicating comes from. You may gain laughter and applause, but if nobody is acting on your ideas then your communication skills need to change. You could blame other people or circumstance, but you can’t control those things.
The only thing you can control is you. So take personal responsibility. Adopt a growth mindset, so that you are willing to believe you can make big changes and get the results you want. Be willing to throw out habits that you have relied on for years and try something new.
After all, ‘If you do what you’ve always done you’ll get what you’ve always got’. Gain professional feedback which may reveal new insights that you had never considered before. This is increasingly important as you get promoted because fewer people are willing to tell you honestly how they feel about your communication style.
Do you think it is possible to be a good business leader without effective speaking skills?
No matter what you want to achieve, you will only be able to do this by communicating your ideas in a way that compels people to act. When you can do this with a larger audience you can accelerate your progress. People are far less likely these days to respond to top-down commands. They want to feel inspired and proud of the work they do; br part of a company that they believe in. This comes from looking for a leader who acts in a way that motivates us to work harder towards the business goals.
Your book outlines a number of influential studies you have carried out into the impact of body language. What has been the most surprising or encouraging result that has emerged from your research so far?
The most surprising result was that people of different ages, race and gender gain equally good ratings and results from improving their communication skills. A video of a young darker-skinned woman gained the same level of results as a video of an older, lighter-skinned man, whether we showed this video in India, Europe or the USA. We fully expected to find prejudice and, of course, many prejudices do exist in society. The good news here was that people were equally likely to say that they felt a person was a good leader — convincing and confident regardless of age, race and gender — when that person adopted effective non-verbal communication skills.
Is there one thing that you should never say to somebody who struggles to express their opinion?
We must avoid labels. For years I was called a ‘shy, quiet introvert’ and told that ‘performing just isn’t your thing’. This is nonsense. I had to discard these labels and create new habits that allowed me to now be referred to as a ‘dynamic speaker’. My entire business success was built upon one person spotting my potential, giving me an opportunity and encouraging me. He saw that I had skills I didn’t know I had. So I encourage you to do the same. See the potential in the people around you. Believe in them, so that they can fulfil their potential.
Richard Newman’s new book,You Were Born To Speak, will be published on Friday, December 7th, 2018, priced £14.99, and is available for pre-order now from Amazon UK. If you pre-order You Were Born To Speak from the book launch website – borntospeak.com then you can attend the official launch in London on December 11th and get extra bonuses. Profits go to AfriKids, Room to Read, and the Tibetan Children’s Education Foundation.