Paul Scanlon reveals the foundations of effective communication culled from his 35 years’ experience as a pastor.
Contributed By Yong Yung Shin
In order to be an effective communicator, whether in public or one-to-one, one must be in tune with himself. That was the main message captured during a communication masterclass on July 28 at the Church of Singapore with Paul Scanlon, the senior pastor of Abundant Life Church, UK.
“Public speaking done well is an art form as priceless as any painting canvas or sculpture,” he said at the start of the masterclass. The day’s session did not impart typical techniques such as eye contact, voice projection or gesticulation, as “technique is just scaffolding for what you want to say.” Rather Scanlon shed light on the core ingredients for effective communication.
START WITH SELF-DISCOVERY
“Effective communication begins with you,” said Scanlon. We are all products of our background, upbringing, roots and culture, which shape who we are as a person, and we need to allow that to permeate what we do in public communication.
“Every time you speak, you are not just communicating information. You are giving something of yourself away. Your experiences, failures, weaknesses and successes are what people want to know about and identify with. For us to find ourselves, we need to give thought to how and why we tick the way we do, in order to bring authenticity to our communication.”
Drawing a metaphor with the fact that a person’s DNA differs from that of another by only one percent, he encouraged the participants to find “our one percent—the experiences and personality that makes us unique” in order to add flavor and color to their presentation.
“The biggest battle for me has not been about technique or topic, but about finding myself,” Scanlon said. Connecting with people is the most important ingredient in communication, and it cannot be done without authenticity. “Being yourself can be scary sometimes, but the world will love you for it. Work on your strengths rather than try to fix your weaknesses,” he explained.
CRAFTING YOUR MESSAGE
Scanlon also taught how to construct one’s message and how to keep it relevant and real. One of the most common mistakes is trying to say too much. “Err on saying less; less is more when it comes to communication,” Scanlon stated. To keep one’s message in check, a speaker must be able to say in a single sentence what his speech is about, and he must be able to convey why it matters. “The ‘why’ is more important than the ‘what’ and ‘how’, and it must always be about others and not yourself. Effective communication is about putting yourself in a person’s shoes, not in his face,” he said. As such, thinking about who our audience is instead of what we want to say will shape our presentation dramatically.
Topics and subjects are not new—angles are. Giving examples from his sermons, Scanlon showed how one can package and title a speech in a way that draws people in. His sermon on tithing, for example, is titled “I’m Tired Of Being Broke,” and another on fellowship is built around the subject of “Dealing With People Who Get On Your Nerves.”
FINDING YOUR VOICE
In the last segment of the masterclass, Scanlon exhorted the audience to be bold in using their voice. A speaker’s background, his preparation and message come together in his voice. “Every person has a voice. Our voice isn’t just a sound; it is our identity in sound,” said Scanlon, likening it to one’s vocal fingerprint. Discovering our signature sound opens up our vocal potential and moves us away from the fears that limit us in the head.
Many communicators are afraid of speaking from their hearts, and hence are not able to touch the hearts of others. “If you speak from your head, you cannot touch people’s hearts. To touch hearts, you have to speak from your heart, and get a heart response. The person who can move hearts can change nations, governments and churches.”
Communication is about believing that you have as much right to be heard as anyone else who is communicating. One suggestion Scanlon gave was to assume that the audience is on your side, or at least open to what you have to say. “It will enhance your voice and your confidence.”
Next, speak from influence, not authority. “Influence requires relationship and interaction; authority doesn’t require your name to tell you what to do.” Aim, therefore, for respect and not recognition. Do not patronize, embarrass or manipulate people, but engage them. “Don’t speak at, over or around people. Speak to and with people. The best communication is almost like a dialog, even though there may be only one voice speaking.”
Scanlon elaborated, “Respect reverberates and multiplies, but recognition explodes and subsides not long after you achieve it. The difference between the two is that the recognized man appeals to the head, where things are easily forgotten, but the respected man captivates the heart, and the heart does not forget.”
The speaker ended with a rousing exhortation: “You have a voice. There’s an audience somewhere looking for your voice. You need to believe that, so find out who you really are and get your voice out there.”