I recently participated in a focus group. In addition to a Q&A session, we were also asked to rate the content of some video clips. We were reminded that the experts in the clip were not trained public speakers, so to please tailor our remarks to what the person had to say, not how s/he said it.
One of the videos was of a man who was responding to a question designed by the research company. When he was answering the question, it was clear he had not prepared: he had lots of “ums” and “ahs” in between his sentences and his eyes were darting as he was searching for the content.
As we (in the focus group) began to express our reactions, many people remarked how unprepared he sounded, noted that he had too many ums and ahs, and – overall – seemed evasive; in other words, they didn’t listen to the content and didn’t trust his message.
The lesson for all of us is that it is hard, if not almost impossible, for listeners/viewers to separate the message from the messenger.
You ARE the message. Your communication skills can either enhance your message or serve as a distraction.
So, if you want to be HEARD, do not underestiimate the value of preparation, practice, feedback and the necessity of improving your delivery.