Many readers may remember Karen Friedman, a graduate of Penn State University and Manchester University. She was a star television reporter for almost 15 years for Philadelphia’s most viewed television news station, WPVI Channel 6. Since leaving the news world over a decade ago, Ms. Friedman launched one of the top corporate communication practices in the country, Karen Friedman Enterprises. Now she has come out with a book entitled Shut Up and Say Something! published by Praeger Press where she provides advice and insights on how to be an effective communicator.
Karen Friedman: Most books tell you what to do; I wanted to write a book that shows people how to do it and remind them to keep the end result in mind when tackling their own communication challenges. That’s why the book begins at chapter Z and ends at A. I had so many personal coaching and review notes from hundreds if not thousands of sessions, published articles, great examples and funny stories from my TV days, board rooms and a quick run for political office that I thought wouldn’t it be great to put it all in once place? When I researched, I couldn’t find any books that were loaded with try-it-this-way techniques and real hands-on examples that could be applied to their own situations. That’s why each chapter tackles a different communication challenge and offers ways to overcome it.
MK: Who should read it? KF: If you asked me this when I first wrote it, I would have said business people, but now that it’s out, readers are telling me it’s a great source for anyone who has to communicate and quite a few students have told me this should be recommended reading for college, perhaps even high school students. MK: What are the biggest mistakes business people make when trying to convey what their company does? KF: They don’t sit in the seats of their listeners so they convey too many details and don’t get to the point quickly enough. For example, if you work for a software company, the customer probably doesn’t care about what makes it work. Instead, they want to know how the software will help them solve their problems. [That is,] will it allow them to be more productive, save time, money or perhaps do more with less?’ MK: What are the biggest mistakes business people make when speaking in front of a group? KF: Here are the four most common mistakes.
- Eye contact. They fail to make eye contact with all parts of the room so each member of the audience does not feel as if the speaker is speaking right to them.
- Speed. Most people speak too quickly, but when speaking publicly or at meetings, it’s important to slow down. Yet, telling someone to slow down doesn’t work. Speakers must pause to give listeners a chance to process what is being said.
- Examples: Simply presenting information or data is boring. You have to help people understand how that information affects them. That means sharing examples, anecdotes, quick stories and vignettes and metaphors that help people visualize what you’re saying and make your message more relevant.
- Jargon. People tend to think they can use lingo when speaking to groups of peers because the peers know what the words mean. But too many numbers and acronyms get lost quickly. It is up to the speaker to facilitate understanding by providing context. If you’re going to use lingo, then tell people what it means to them.
- Limit text on slides so you can talk and not read.
- Practice without the PowerPoint so your ideas and thoughts roll off your tongue in conversational manner as if you were explaining this to a friend.
- Prepare your talk or script first and then prepare the slides. This way the slides will follow you and reinforce what you are saying instead of the other way around.
- Have a roadmap. Know what you want to say before the interview and look for opportunities to weave your messages into the conversation.
- Do not mimic the Sunday morning talk shows where politicians ignore the questions. Answer the question!
- Frame what you want to say from the audience’s perspective. You’re not talking to the reporter; you are talking to the reporter’s audience.