Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Last week I blogged about my goal this year to improve my communication skills. I've read a number of books in this area since the beginning of the year. Listed below are a few nuggets from two recent reads.

One was The Articulate Executive by Granville Toogood (yep, that's his name). The book's subtitle is Learn to Look, Act, and Sound Like a Leader. Honestly, I thought the book was a bore. I felt like I was being talked down to. However, I guess his target audience is someone who has never spoken publicly. I was hungry for something new and fresh, but what I mostly got were reminders about introductions and conclusions in a talk, tone of voice, etc. I was even reminded to polish my shoes and always to wear knee level socks so that there is no danger that my white legs will show while sitting on the platform.

My greatest takeway from the book, however, was very helpful. Toogood calls it the 8-second rule. Here's how it works. After you have finished writing your speech/sermon/whatever, learn how to speak the essence of your talk in 2 minutes. Then get it down to 1 minute. Then get it down to 30 seconds. (I might not have the exact time elements accurate.) Finally, get your talk down to where you can say it in 8 seconds. If you can't say it in 8 seconds, then you have not done a good job capturing your main point.

That's a great discipline for sermon preparation. If I can' summarize my message in 8 seconds, then my main objective must not be very clear. The whole message should center around the 8-second synopsis. Andy Stanley says pretty much the same thing in his Communicating for a Change. He's a big proponent of the one-point sermon. He says if your sermon has three points, then you actually have three sermons instead of one.

The other book I found to be very interesting. It's called Words That Work by Frank Luntz. Its subtitle teaches a lesson that makes it worth the cost of the book: It's Not What You Say; It's What People Hear. Actually, I audio-read this one. It was helpful in giving me some updated insights into modern culture, such as future buzz words, things never to say, political words, etc. And it was a time to remininsce as Luntz reminded me of the top sayings in movies (like "Go ahead, make my day" and "Frankly, my dear, I don't (I better stop there)) and commericals whose jingles or one-liners are ingrained in our culture (like "Plop, plop, fiz, fiz" or "Snack, crackle, pop")

Luntz, for years, was a political strategist. Although he probably sways on the political conservative end, politicians from both parties have hired him as a consultant. He's very well-respected.

In one of the most insightful sections of the book Luntz offers a handful of buzz words and phrases that still have a future well-into the 21st century: imagine, hassel-free, lifestyle, accountability, results and can-do spirit, innovation, renew-revitalize-rejuvenate-restore-reinvent, efficient and efficiency, the right to, patient-centered, investment, casual elegance, independent, peace of mind, certified, all-American, prosperity, spirituality, financial security, a balanced approach, a culture of.

The book reminded me not to show off my vocabulary when speaking. Use words that you know people will understand. Keep it short and keep it simple. And, remember, it is not what you say that matters; it is what people hear.

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