Have you ever heard that “God gave us one mouth and two ears for a reason, so we ought to listen twice as much as we speak”? The old Irish proverb holds true and is now backed up by science. In Part 1 of this blog series, we talked about how effective speakers set up their presentation to help foster active listening. In this blog, we will discuss how speakers can make sure that THEY are actively listening.

Using both ears is just the beginning.

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All this talk about “fake news,” and “alternative facts” has me reflecting on the difference between relatively harmless untruths versus potentially dangerous ones. For instance, I just read yet another article debunking the “truism” that human beings use only 10% of our brains. So disappointing, since I like to think I could lose 90% of my mind and still be ok.

Seriously, though – believing or not believing this myth probably won’t hurt me. But some myths can be dangerous – to your health, the planet – or your career. In communications, trusting a lie can cause a huge professional blunder – and who needs that?

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We couldn’t have scripted a better example for leadership communications than what happened at the Academy Awards Sunday night.

Jordan Horowitz, one of the producers of the film La La Land, had just accepted the award for Best Picture when it was discovered the presenters had been handed the wrong card and announced the wrong winner. Amid the confusion, embarrassment, and apologies that followed, Horowitz held up the right card and declared, “Moonlight, you guys won Best Picture,’” and then, “I’m going to be really proud to hand this to my friends from Moonlight.”

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As a former producer for “60 Minutes” and other CBS News magazines, I rarely advise clients to not do high-stakes TV interviews, especially during a crisis. Since reporters interpret silence as a tacit admission of guilt, open communication is the smart approach. But these types of interviews require preparation on an entirely different level. Here is an eleven-step strategy to limit risk and leverage opportunity when engaging with the media in high-stakes or crisis communications situations.

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Presenting somebody else’s slides can be a daunting task for even the most senior executives. That’s why I’ve adapted 3D’s successful model for communications preparation, “ACT – Analysis, Content Development, Testing,” to this less-than-ideal situation. Since the speaker usually has a short amount of time to prepare, I call it ACT Fast – 15 quick steps to making a presentation your own, when it’s not.

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The emotional power President Obama drew upon is a connection all great speakers seek to make with their audience. It’s a connection that occurs only when the audience can sense the speaker’s words, because those words are genuinely connected to personal values and shared experience. That kind of content is what I like to call “shared context.” It only happens when the words are rooted in character and they are delivered with passion and conviction.

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“60 Minutes” stories are morality plays. Good vs. Evil. The hero is the correspondent, who brings the story to climax with what Mike Wallace called, the “best question. One they don’t know is coming and I already have the answer.” They call that moment, the “Gotcha.”

When executives are deciding whether to accept interviews with shows like “60 Minutes,” they need to understand the gestalt of these shows – and learn how to survive and even excel on them.

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As all of our work becomes increasingly global, it is interesting to note the significant social, cultural, language and other differences that make message development and communications training for different countries more challenging than ever. This is particularly true when the messages on a product or issue have to be consistent across a global organization, but at the same time, resonate with – and not offend — audiences in specific regions.

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