Gary Wohlman – Thursday, January 31, 2013
The Art of Effective Communication
by Dr Gary Wohlman, Communication Skills Coach
The purpose of this article is twofold:
to provide enhanced support for those Local Government Association of Tasmania members participating in a Communication Skills training, facilitated by myself on 23 Feb 2013
to give tangible tips, tools and techniques for anyone that are easy to remember — to make breakthroughs in the following (A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I-J) communication challenges that Elected Members typically face in the area of public speaking:
A ) Talking with residents and getting them onside
A key principle here is first establishing rapport, affinity, and a sense of trust and openness. This is best shown by shifting the focus of conversation from achieving single-minded outcomes to displaying sincere interest in the other and their interests, concerns and challenges — as well as opening up active dialogue to ask open-ended questions to encourage greater depth and sensitivity of sharing, and to better understand other’s points-of-view before you share your own. If you ask others to “empty their cup” before you deliver any key points, principles and suggestions you have to share, you will be speaking to people who feel valued in your asking them for their perspective first. And in feeling that they are as valuable to your presentation as the verbal content you would otherwise download, their willingness to listen to you is enhanced.
Specifically, if you have a key Point to make, it would do well for you to practice the following P.E.A. Formula, which represents the Cycle of Communication that maximises the audience’s retention of your message. I have created and developed this tool to make it easy for you to have your points be heard, felt and remembered — so others can also take action on what you have to say.
Here’s how the P.E.A. Formula works: For every Point or Principle you make, follow it up by adding a personal Example from your own or another’s experience that appeals to as many senses (sight, sound, feeling, smell, taste, touch) as possible. And complete your point by leaving your audience with an Application that appeals to their sense of “W.I.I.F.M.,” also known as “What’s in this for me?” from your audience’s perspective.
When looked at from another angle,
P – the Point, Principle & Point-of-view you make represents the “We,” that view that includes us all — that gives us all a common understanding we can all agree on such as “minimising impact to our environment”
E – the Example you make represents the “I,” your own personal view on the subject
A – the Application you make represents the “You,” demonstrating that you are sensitive to other’s listening and offer suggestions as to how they can take your suggested points, principles and points-of-view on board themselves.
Summing up the P.E.A. Formula in a elegant, simplified way, “We” = an integration of “I” and “You.” That is why it represents the represents the Cycle of Communication, no matter what you have to say. If you can remember to practice backing up each Point you make with one Example and one Application — before moving on to your next point — your audience will most easily understand, remember and take action on your points.
B ) Overcoming the fear of public speaking (particularly for newly elected members)
Speak first to the “Yes!” that has been already established during the meeting you are attending. Speak to the place where everyone has agreed to listen in some way, speak to the place we all agree, and then your point will be heard by others who feel met.
C ) Speaking to a large audience (eg at a public function, conference etc)
Remember the key principle that: It’s always one-to-one. We are always speaking, from ourself to another self, and ultimately to the One Self of which we are all a part.
D ) Presenting to a hostile audience (eg. a group of angry residents protesting at a rally)
“What you want to tell us is important to us. We want to hear your points. To give you and your message the attention deserved, please come to our office where we can truly listen from a still place and take your points to heart.
E ) Getting your point across effectively at council meetings (particularly as a woman in a man’s world)
“To get your point across effectively at a council meeting, particularly if you see yourself as a woman in a man’s world, then speak up with the voice that the men, indeed all concerned, are ready to hear. Since men are often more focused on achieving specific measurable outcomes, they are often hungry for more nurturing and care. Appealing to this under-expressed need, want and desire in men, as a woman it would do well for you to appeal to this sense of “I care for you, you care for me… One hand washes the other… Focus on building T.E.A.M. (Together Everybody Achieves More.”)…”What would strengthen our position together would be…”
F ) Communicating effectively with difficult people (eg speaking up at council meetings)
“When to speak, and when not to speak?”
a) Best to speak as close to the moment that a point has been just expressed by another in the meeting that you disagree with, since your silence would imply that you agree with the last point made.
b) It’s not necessary to speak when another or others have expressed a similar view that you have, too. Unless, that is, you have a uniquely fresh persepctive on the subject that would add greater clarity, focus and direction.
G ) How to align your verbal and physical messages?
Given that a large percentage of a successful presentation is dependent on what one reveals visually with the body, hands and arms, getting the presenter’s movements right as “conscious choreography of communication” is more vital than focusing on the message alone. In fact, the message, words and full self-expression all flow in concert and more fluidly together when the “outer movements match the presenter’s inner intentions.”
I often suggest postures for the fingers, arms and hands to make pictures the audience can clearly see. Notice, for example, when you make spoken statements with specific verbal content, how you are able to “show what you are telling” by making easy-to-recognise symbols and images with your fingers, hands and arms to further clarify the message you are intending to deliver. The audience will indeed see the message — even before you open your mouth — and will retain and recall the message more deeply, on multiple levels of meaning.
When you are making a point and intending to demonstrate that you know what you are talking about, to come from a place of deepest authority in your vocal expression, it would do well for you to direct the sound of your voice down towards the base of your spine to demonstrate that you mean what you are saying, rather than allowing your voice to trail upwards at the end of a sentence as though you were asking a question — which could be interpreted as uncertainty by those who are sensitive to the tone in your voice.
These 3 factors, the Verbal content, the Visual gestures, and the Vocal sounds comprise the 3V’s of communication, and audiences “get the full composite of your intended communication” when these elements all reinforce one another…
H ) As Managing Director, CEO, or spokesperson for your organisation, what tips are helpful in preparing content for a speech?
As you begin to prepare the content for your speech, find out as early as possible what diverse points-of-view are represented in the audience with whom you will be speaking — and prepare answers to the most difficult, challenging, as well as commonly-asked questions that you might be asked… This represents the Q & A, or Question & Answer section, of your speech, which you would do well to include as part of the body of your presentation — rahter than feeling you need to wait and save the Q & A for the end.
For example, you might say within the body of your talk, “For those of you who are from xyz (organisation or department or point-of-view), one of the most commonly asked questions I am asked is “abc…123.” And I’ve found that one of the best ways of addressing this issue is “xyz…456” By including the Q & A as part of the body of your talk, you often can disarm people’s emotionally charged questions by answering them before they have a chance to bring these up.
I) Ask participatory questions to engage your audience in active listening
Rather than simply making your strong points in a lecture format, ask the audience participatory questions in a conversational tone, such as “Does this make sense to you?” and “Are you following me?” and “Who here also shares my point of view? Raise your hands if you do.” Asking participatory questions like these keeps your listeners engaged and more involved in understanding the nuances of your communication that might otherwise be missed.
There is an old Chinese saying, the gist of which goes like this: “Tell me and I’ll forget. Ask me and I’ll remember. Involve me and I’ll understand.” Make sense?
J ) Talking with the media
Although this is certainly a subject in itself, which I am happy to assist you with if you reach me directly after reading this article, one key point I will leave you with is: if you can focus on what key point you would like to leave the media representative with, it is almost always good to leave them with “If I could leave you with one message, it would be…“)
It is always the first time: no matter how often you have presented, find something different and new each time. Draw on the audience, the location, your own mood or events – this keeps the presentation fresh.
Speak to one person: whether it is two people or 200. Find one person and begin your sentence to them – move your gaze through the audience then come back and find another, ideally a person who is also giving you attention and positive energy. Do this in a structured way by dividing the audience up into a grid pattern.
If you get lost, recap and include the audience:
Instead of embarrassing yourself by saying out loud, “Oops, where was I?,” include the audience with something like, “Where do we go from here?” “Let me go back over what we’ve been talking about.” Use it as an opportunity to recap and include the audience. Just like the strategy of moving through a skid, going more deeply into the skid brings one right out of it.
And after all, the best speakers tell their audiences what they have told them, what they are telling them, and what they will be telling them. Indeed, there is value in repetition, particularly if the same point is made with slight nuances in vocal and visual expression and verbal content. As you practice saying the same thing in different ways, you will also be able to “think on your feet” and speak more spontaneously.
In closing, here’s a simple and easy exercise for you to practice:
This exercise is taken from another technique I’ve created called “The Double Extreme,” a tool that awakens authenticity in self-expression.
Without giving thought to “doing it” right or wrong, say the following words out loud in whatever way they come out naturally: “It’s easy for me to reach you with my message.”
Now, if you find that you give distracting signals when you are saying these words verbally, such as repeating a habit you might have of allowing your voice to speak too fast, then exaggerate the distraction, then do the opposite — perhaps speaking slowly…
Repeat this “exaggeration and opposite” practice 2 more times, the 2nd time speaking faster and then slower, and the 3rd time fastest and slowest.
Finally, speak the same sentence in a way that feels you are bringing out the “best of both,” delivering your message with the strong energy of the fast pattern and the depth of feeling and sensitivity and care of the slow pattern.
When you practice the “best of both,” notice what shifts in your feeling of being authentic and resonant and clear in matching your verbal message with your physical delivery.
The more you notice what shifts, the easier it will be for you to anchor the accompanying tangible, physical and measurable sensations and locations in your body, and thereby return to this place when you need it the most — when you are making your next presentation.
If you would like assistance in practicing any of the tools, tips and techniques described above to awaken your authenticity and full self-expression, and for further support so you can give better live presentations to audiences — on and in all stages of your life — feel free to contact me by email (, by phone +61 (0)433 126 019, and by Skype “elijahgary”
Along with traveling worldwide for private in-house and public presentations, seminars and workshops, I am also available for one-to-one coaching. For more information, to view a wide variety of videos and blog posts — and to choose from a selection of video, audio and e-downloadable printed support materials to assist you further in delivering your messages with optimal effectiveness and impact, visit: