Ben Decker and Kelly Decker are leading experts in the field of business communication. They consult on messaging, cultivate executive presence among the leadership of Fortune 500 companies and startups alike, and regularly deliver keynotes to large audiences.
Together, they run Decker Communications, a global firm that trains and coaches tens of thousands of executives a year. Their new book, Communicate to Influence: How to Inspire Your Audience to Action, shares real-world stories and tips from the C-Suite that apply to us all.
In this conversation, they discuss their book.
Geetesh: Tell us more about the differences between a communicator and a connector, and how you explain such concepts in your book, Communicate to Influence: How to Inspire Your Audience to Action?
Ben: We’re all communicators. Every time we open our mouths to tell someone something, we are communicating. Whether we’re interacting with the man behind the counter at the deli, the woman in the corner office, or our kids as we are getting ready for swim practice, we are communicating all day, every day. Our book is about how you can use these moments of communication not to just inform others, but to influence and inspire.
Kelly: Communication is a contact sport — you must connect to make an impact. In our book, we reveal a new tool called the Communicator’s RoadmapTM to help identify and guide effective communication for many different types of experiences. A central part of the Communicator’s Roadmap is the vertical axis of emotional connection. This measures the rapport that we build with others, our likability, our warmth…all marks of influential and inspiring communicators. To connect, we show care, warmth (often with a smile) and demonstrate interest with our behaviors.
Geetesh: What motivated you to write Communicate to Influence: How to Inspire Your Audience to Action? Also can you share some thoughts about how your book can help in-person presenters, webinar hosts, conference call speakers, or anyone else who needs to present messages get further?
Ben: We noticed that people routinely tell themselves 5 White Lies about Communication (check ’em out here). Everyone is guilty of telling him/herself one of the white lies. We regularly work at the executive level of Fortune 500 companies, and we see that top leaders often make the same mistakes as their mid-level managers.
The reason we wrote the book was to share the key tools for influential and inspiring communication more broadly and with a wider audience. A lot of the methodologies and principles from the book, we (and most of our team at Decker Communications) practice and regularly teach as part of our training and executive coaching sessions. It’s practically in our DNA.
Kelly: Your job as the leader is to communicate how their role — whatever it is — fits into the bigger vision. All the time. Relentlessly. Transfer it to all levels of your organization. Inspire your team by connecting the dots about what impact they have, how they contribute to the vision.
Whether we’re trying to influence or inspire, we forget that we have to connect with our audience — each audience — each time. Communication is not just for the bright lights and the big stage. People pigeonhole the application of communication, thinking it’s just for board meetings or town halls. In actuality, the same principles apply to every scenario: webinars, conference calls, in-person meetings, and every other facet of our personal lives. Think about three things:
- How will I connect? In a conference call, focus on your voice. Are you conveying enough energy? If it’s in-person, think about adding warmth with a smile. We have to be likable in order to influence.
- Is my content self-centered or audience-centered? At every level and in every industry, you must consider their experience. If you are busy talking all about your tool, your product, your perspective, your “widget,” chances are it’s not going to engage your audience. Flip the script to make it relevant to them. This applies to webinars, in-person meetings and calls, too.
- Where can I add emotion to motivate? A great way to connect through content is to reveal vulnerability, like sharing a personal story, for example. We’re not talking tears and heartache, here. Humor, milestones and familiar experiences can also boost connection and strengthen your point.
Ben: We wrote this book, Communicate to Influence to apply communication skills and lessons to life. It’s filled with many practical how-to tips, as well as real-world anecdotes and stories. The tips from the book are easy to relate to, and they’re easy to apply. One of our favorite responses is when CEOs share how well these skills are working in the rest of their lives.