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How about a tip which not only makes you a better communicator, but also eases your nerves and helps you get to the point? Heck, at this rate I should also say it will help pay your bills, too, but I won’t go quite that far. Whenever I am talking to clients about an important conversation or presentation they are making, I first emphasize the need to set a plan for how they will start. And then we talk about “landing the plane.”

Just like any experienced aviator, you should have a plan for how you will “land the plane” in any important conversation, talk or speech. When you hear people say they often “wing it” in those situations, with that comment comes something like, “I prefer to be spontaneous.” And I can usually predict the future – you are in for a bumpy ride.

Can I suggest anyone without a plan for how they will end an important conversation will, much like a lost pilot, search around, possibly panic and probably just bring the experience to an end without any real chance the encounter will be a good one for anyone involved. So let’s talk about landing the plane well and the many advantages that come with it.

You always know where you are going: An experienced and skilled communicator always knows where they ultimately will take the conversation. Might there be adjustments along the way? Sure. But, having a plan in place provides you with a North Star. You are less likely to get distracted by irrelevant issues and you will appear to be much clearer in your thinking. When interacting with a reporter, for example, the savvy communicator always knows her message – even though the interview could go in different directions.

You will be more relaxed: Anyone who struggles with nerves in a job interview, critical conversation or speech should always ask, “Do I know how I will land this plane?” Nerves are often the result of lack of planning. Practice and forethought are your best friends. A surprise question suddenly isn’t so scary when you know what message you want your audience to leave the room remembering. A job interview answer goes from, “Huh, that’s a good question. I’ll have to think about it,” to something like, “Well, you may meet people with a more impressive resume but I can tell you no one will outwork me. I am totally committed to this job and I have done the research to get off to a great start.” Insert your own specific message, but you can see the difference.

No more wandering: Do you sometimes get feedback saying you take too long to make your point? Have bosses said, “Okay, what do you need?” “I need to get to my next meeting.” Or the dreaded, “What’s your point!?” If those words come your way too often you probably need a clearer plan for landing the plane. A detail oriented person (engineer, researcher or academic for example) loves the small stuff, but the details can sometimes get in the way of a clear final point. That same smart, detail-focused person will always be more effective when they can also succinctly let their audience know “this is my final, most important point.”

So, always start with a clear map of how you will end, perhaps even planning out the exact words you might use. The result? A smooth landing and a better chance of a great impression from the person hearing those words.


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Cary Pfeffer is the founder of ClearComm Consulting, www.clear-comm.net, a Scottsdale, AZ communications consulting firm that helps people tell their story. He works with clients to make the most of their media and live audience communication. Email him at: cary@clear-comm.net.