To learn more about how to develop your communication skills at work, I spoke to Carmine Gallo, who is one of the foremost experts in the field. Carmine is a keynote speaker and author of the upcoming book Talk Like TED: The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds. The following is a brief interview I did with Carmine about his previous few books.
Dan Schawbel: Can you name some of your favorite TED speakers and why they are such effective communicators?
Carmine Gallo: With more than 1,500 presentations on the TED.com site, it’s hard to pick one or two. Right now I’m intrigued by civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson. Stevenson successfully argues cases in front of the U.S Supreme Court and his TED talk, which has been viewed more than 1.2 million times, received the longest standing ovation in TED history. I spoke to Stevenson personally about how he structures and delivers presentations and what we can all learn from him. I learned that Stevenson connects with his audience through stories. In his 18 minute talk, Stevenson delivers three stories. The first story is about his grandmother. Everyone has a grandmother and so it’s easier to make an emotional connection with his audience through the story. “You have to get folks to trust you,” Stevenson told me. “If you start with something that’s too esoteric and disconnected from the lives of everyday people, it’s harder for people to engage.”
DS: What can managers learn from Steve Jobs about how to get employees more accountable for their work?
CG: One word: vision. Steve Jobs’s vision was to “put a computer in the hands of everyday people.” Remember in the mid 1970s personal computers were largely relegated to the hobbyist market. Scientists and researchers who study innovation will tell you that a vision sets forces in motion. A bold, inspiring vision attracts evangelists (think Steve Wozniak, without whom Apple would not exist). A vision also helps you see things differently. In 1979, Steve Jobs was visiting the Xerox research facility (PARC) in Palo Alto, California.
There he saw a mouse and a graphical user interface. He said to himself and, later, to his engineers working on the Macintosh project, that the technology would help them put a computer into everyday hands. Jobs said Xerox could have dominated the entire computer industry but its “vision” was limited to making a new copier. Jobs also said that once you hire smart people, a leader’s role is largely to keep the team focused on the vision.
DS: What do you recommend to introverts in the workplace on how to better connect with extroverts?
CG: First, celebrate being an introvert! There’s a lot of proof these days that introverts are crucial to innovation and progress. There’s even a popular TED talk on the subject by Susan Cain where she argues that the world’s most transformative leaders were quiet, soft-spoken, and even shy. So maybe a better question should be, “how can extroverts better connect with introverts?” Regardless, it’s true that the workplace is set up for extroverts, with open spaces and now, increasingly, shared workspaces instead of cubicles. Look, I was never the guy who was gregarious in a bar setting with a bunch of people so I understand the need for quiet and reflection.
I would recommend two things for introverts to better connect. First, everybody eats lunch. Deliver your communication, pitches, or ideas over a small group lunch or a one-on-one meeting. Two, and this works nearly every time, to be interesting you must be interested. Ask questions of extroverts. Let them do most of the talking because they love to talk. Ask them about their family. Ask them about their career path or how they found a solution to a particular problem. In a conversation they will do most of the talking but since they will be talking about their favorite subject—themselves—they’ll find you to be an “interesting” person.
DS: How can workers gain the necessary soft skills (like presenting, relationship building, teamwork) that will help them be more successful at work?
CG: Communication is the #1 skill for career success. Billionaire Warren Buffett once told a class of business students, “I’ll give you $100,000 right now for 10% of your future earnings. If you’re a good communicator, I’ll give you $150,000.” At no time in history have you had such access to great public speakers and communicators. Think about it, broadband Internet connections allow you to see the world’s best speakers give 18 minute presentations on TED.com.
Visit YouTube and search for “Steve Jobs” keynotes and you can see one of the most astonishing business presenters of our time launch new products. While you’re there, you can watch Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, or Ronald Reagan, too. I can give you many specific examples of young people who have contacted me to say that their careers began to soar once they learned to give better presentations.
DS: Can you give us your top three presentation tips for workers who are trying to get management on board with their ideas?
CG: I like the fact that you asked me for three tips because my first tip is:
- Stick to the rule of three. The mind can only consume about three or four points in short term memory. Don’t overwhelm your listener with 22 points. Stick to “three reasons to approve this budget” or “three new features of this product…” Three is the most powerful number in communication.
- Share your passion and enthusiasm for your idea. Before you make your pitch ask yourself, “What is it about my idea that I’m especially passionate about?” Share your answer with the person you are trying to influence. Passion is contagious and helps to make an emotional connection with the listener.
- If you’re delivering a PowerPoint, make it visually interesting. Nobody wants to see a deck with slide after slide of text and bullet points. Bullets points are the least effective way of transferring ideas. Create a deck that offers a blend of both visual images and words.