This article was authored by Kelly Delgado, Dan Page and Ozzie Evans. As seasoned practitioners in Infosys Consulting’s Talent & Organization practice, they bring decades of experience in Organizational Change Management (OCM) and communications.
The pandemic has altered the way we communicate. In-person meetings and conversations have been replaced by video conferencing and other remote interactions, making the ability for leaders to build relationships and trust with their stakeholders more critical than ever.
Whether you’re a business leader or politician, the ability to connect with people depends in large part on your authenticity. This skill — or lack thereof — is often a turning point in an executive’s career. We’ve seen many mid-level managers promoted due to their ability to communicate effectively during challenging times. And we’ve also seen the opposite side of that equation.
Most people who rise to the C-suite are highly effective interpersonal communicators. But as the pandemic and other external factors increase dependence on digital communications, not everyone has made the leap to becoming an effective communicator on camera.
There is a significant difference between speaking on stage in front of a live audience to delivering a virtual town hall or video message from a home office. It lacks the energy and reality of an in-person format — which is why speakers have to try much harder to make an impact.
Many executives rely on their corporate communications department to shape messaging. Though it’s wise to seek the team’s input and feedback, we can’t stress enough how important it is that when leaders speak to your audience, your words come across as yours. If your audience detects that you are speaking from a script that someone else wrote — and they will — you will lose them at the very time you need each other most.
Authenticity doesn’t always come naturally, but most leaders have the basic building blocks to learn it. For starters: stop thinking about it as a performance, and instead as an opportunity to reach people who need your thoughtful, undivided attention. In roughly the same amount of time it would take you to memorize a script someone else drafted, you could pen a really good outline of what you think you should say. Once you find your own voice, your delivery will be more natural and impactful as a result.
Seven Tips for Improving Authenticity
- Use bullets versus scripts.
Use bullets instead of scripts for your speeches, town halls and other remarks. This approach will help you focus more on the storyline versus the word-for-word message, while forcing you to put that story into your own words.
- Use the interview style for articles and corporate videos.
Prepare a list of questions the audience would likely ask and then answer them as candidly as possible. This approach lends an air of authenticity and gives the editor more (and better) material to use when finalizing the piece.
- Weave in stories.
The human brain has a strong tendency to lose focus, and stories are a great way to engage your audience. Science also shows that stories are a powerful medium for teaching and inspiring people.
- Leverage your background or a prop, when appropriate.
One of the benefits of working from home is the ability to share something personal with your audience. Use props and backdrops to add visual interest and breathe life into stories.
- Know your material.
Take a cue from your public speaking course and practice, practice, practice. Use the privacy of your home office to speak the words out loud.
- Know your tool.
Always conduct a dry run using the actual application (Teams, WebEx, Zoom, etc.) to mimic the experience as closely as possible and avoid technical hiccups during the actual event.
- Involve the audience.
One of the downsides of working from home is that your audience is prone to multitasking. Whenever possible, engage them by using polling, calling on participants, or answering questions from the live chat. Remember: the most important skill in communicating is listening.
Authentic communication is vital in creating effective relationships built on trust and has become an important leadership skill. To gain credibility and make a real impact on the audience, leaders have to speak from the heart and not a script.
Senior Principal, Infosys Consulting
Kelly Delgado is a Senior Principal in Infosys Consulting’s Talent & Organization practice. She began her career as a public relations executive, serving clients in a wide array of industries on media, governmental, industry and employee relations. She recently celebrated her 10-year anniversary with Infosys Consulting, where she leads large-scale Organizational Change Management programs. She holds a BA in Communications & Public Relations from North Carolina State University and an MBA from the University of North Carolina.
Principal, Infosys Consulting
Dan Page is a Principal who has worked for a decade in Infosys Consulting’s Talent & Organization practice, where he has led multimedia communications campaigns for large transformations, rolled out Organizational Change Management Centers of Excellence, and acted as a business readiness and training lead for technology implementations. Dan began his 25-year career working as a writer, editor, production manager and art director working publications, before moving into corporate communications nearly two decades ago. Dan holds a BA in Journalism and Film Production from Southern Illinois University. He also has a M.A. in Writing and an M.S. in Digital Filmmaking from DePaul University in Chicago.
Senior Consultant, Infosys Consulting
Ozzie Evans is a Senior Consultant in Infosys Consulting’s Talent & Organization practice. He has 15 years’ experience in change management and communications across multiple industries. Ozzie has worked with industry leading organizations implementing change management strategy, business readiness, communications, training, and process improvements. His experience includes large scale ERP implementations, mergers & acquisitions, business and IT driven transformations, and outsourcing initiatives. He holds a B.A. in Accounting from North Central College and is also a PROSCI Certified Change Management Practitioner and Six Sigma green belt.