“It’s like early romance.” This is how Briar Goldberg, executive communication coach and speech writer, introduced the idea of effective communication in her seminar: Elevator Pitch. When you first meet a love interest, she says, you are captivated by that person, you can’t spend enough time with them, and you are left wanting more. Effective communication does the exact thing for an audience, and crafting communication is like being a matchmaker. Both show you how to put your best foot forward, putting your message out into the world to spark people’s interest; in other words, making the perfect match.
Unfortunately, we often communicate with the world in the wrong direction. We are so focused on what we have to say, and we don’t stop to think about how our words impact our target audience. This is problematic because if an audience does not think what you are saying is relevant to them, what you say does not matter. This is why Briar focuses her communication coaching on the ABC rule:
Communication sticks with an audience because it resonates with them, so audience centered communication is essential. To center your ideas around your audience, you must first understand who your audience is. While knowing basic demographics is important, there are two deeper, more fundamental questions that you must ask about your audience:
- What are your audience’s goals?
What do they expect and need out of this communication? The failure to ask this leads to a communicative breakdown, a miscommunication. For example, when Briar’s traditional mother-in-law asked her about her wedding ring, she joked that she would just get a ring tattoo, and the mother burst into tears. Clearly Briar did not take into account her mother-in-law’s serious goals for the conversation, and there was a miscommunication.
- How does an audience make decisions? Every audience has a different background and requires different information to make a decision. Some people want hard facts and data, while others are more influenced by emotion. Briar breaks these different audience types into three categories:
- Expert audience
This type of audience knows a lot about the subject about which you are talking. They are rational decision makers that rely on logic (data, facts, statistics) to make decisions.
- Novice audience
- This group is not well-versed in the topic, so they are intuitive decision makers. Your credibility as a speaker is a major contributing factor to the audience’s decision making process.
- All audiences
- Whether experts or novices, all people are emotional decision makers. No matter the background of the audience, stories, imagery, metaphors, and visual aids will be major factors driving their decisions.
Emotions are key in effective communication. Therefore, speakers with charisma and authenticity are incredibly effective in addressing an audience. They are perceived to be more likeable, their ideas are seen as more interesting, and they are persuasive. Speaking in clear, accessible language is key.
After giving us all of this inciteful advice about the nature of communication, Briar led us through a comprehensive breakdown of elevator pitches. A typical pitch is approximately a 30 second description articulating your idea. With an elevator pitch, you set out to accomplish one goal: to get a second meeting. It is not about giving a complete overview of the complexities of your project; you simply want to spark enough interest so that they are compelled to hear more. Furthermore, your pitch is not one size fits all. It needs to be adapted according to your audience. In other words, ABC!
The formula for an effective elevator pitch is as follows:
1. Idea: Provide a complete picture, but keep it concise!
2. Metaphor: This is your chance to be creative and make an abstract idea more tangible. Try to only use it before you establish your brand.
3. Why should your audience care? Audience centered communication is key here. What is in it for them? How will they benefit? This is the part that is going to change a lot from audience to audience.