Politics apart, I think most of us agree that Barack Obama is one of the best storytellers of our time. We often look at him as a source of public speaking inspiration at all levels, especially with regards to the writing skills, tone of voice, pauses, and nonverbal communication. Over the last 20 years, he is only maybe comparable to Steve Jobs regarding performance on stage.
Recently, when asked to advise a group of US Mayors on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic, Obama said: “Speak the truth. Speak it clearly. Speak it with compassion.”. This is the best communication tip I’ve heard during the crisis we’re going through. And it has always been very present whenever I needed to address my team at SOAP Presentations to, among other reasons, explain the risks we have in front of us with regards to the economy and the plan we have put in place to mitigate them.
Speaking the truth, the whole truth, is very often seen as a risk in business communication because it may be perceived as a weakness. And we all know that businesses are typically risk-averse. Therefore, people tend to hide the negatives. But good stories always have a negative component. Otherwise, there’s no conflict, there’s no transformation. Think of the negative as the antagonist to your story. And remember, people have an antenna that detects lies. No matter how good your story is, it’s all about gaining credibility and reputation.
There’s nothing wrong about saying:
Here’s the situation,
This is where this company has been,
This is where we are now,
And this is our strategy for the future,
And if we follow this strategy, we will have success,
If we go in that direction, we will fail.
So, if you, or your company, have been affected by the economic impact of the pandemic and if you’re looking for a piece of advice for your next business update, mine is: speak the truth.