How Politicians Have Screwed It Up for All of Us header image

How Politicians Have Screwed It Up for All of Us

| Posted on

Caught any of the debates lately?

Within hours of those events, fact check websites across the country start the process of sorting fact from fiction.  Personally, I really like the little meters so many seem to have that rate a statement from a politician from True (a rating seldom seen) to Pants on Fire.

FACTOMETERNo matter what your political persuasion may be, on any given day you’re likely to find some politician skirting the edge of accuracy if not downright misleading the American people with facts and figures.

“Facts” have too often become the currency of misdirection.

I’m not sure if we take all the statistics thrown at us as gospel (unless it happens to be your favorite candidate), but what we’ve unfortunately come to accept is that white lies, statistical slight-of-hand, half-truths and outright deception using data are too often the norm.  Bottom line… people can screw with numbers to make just about any case.

So how do those perceptions rub off on us as presenters?

Whether we like it or not, our audiences have been tainted with a general skepticism towards communicated data.  Remember when we were encouraged to start a presentation with an interesting fact or statistic?   Now research suggests we might be better off finding a new opener.

Statistics simply don’t automatically forge believability these days. So maybe it’s time to start earning your audience’s trust the old fashioned way – by building relationship.

Here are some things that can help. A healthy dose of personal transparency. The ability to communicate shared experiences effectively. And a vulnerability that can admit when you don’t have all the answers.

First and foremost, the art of presenting is a relational skill, not a technical one.

The most riveting and astounding statistics won’t do you much good if people hesitate to accept them at face value.  Unless you’re one of the faithful, trust always comes before belief – a lesson politicians of all stripes need to learn and soon – and maybe us too.

Exploring your world:

Augment data with personal stories.

When you find yourself using metrics to make your point, you’re appealing to the most defense-intensive side of the brain. Augment key data points with a relevant and personal (if possible) backstory. This redirects thinking to the brain’s right side and helps your data have a more meaningful relational context.

Build trust by being yourself.

Your audiences are general very gracious with honest imperfections.

But a singular focus on ‘just being yourself’ does not absolve you from working on some good, solid skills. People will embrace authenticity over polished delivery – to a point. Cross over that line at your own risk.

Your believability is at its strongest when verbal and non-verbal impressions nicely align around a warm, engaging personality.

Build trust by looking at people – not past or through them.

For many politicians today, creating the perception of authenticity has been refined to an art form. But the pressure of the moment often reveals cracks in this facade. Watch the eyes.  They will often disengage as the mind scrambles for the “right” answer.

Unfortunately, that can happen to you and me too. Not because we’re being deceitful, but because our brain is racing to keep up. Maybe we’re not as prepared as we should be. Or perhaps racing too quickly because of too much content delivered in too little time.

The problem, unfortunately, is nervous eyes leave too much room for interpretation.

Working on stronger eye communication (again, think 3-4 second conversations) greatly enhances a presenter’s perceived confidence and their believability skyrockets. Slow down.  Stay in the moment.

Build trust by setting expectations and deliver on what you promised.

If your presentation is advertised as 30 minutes, never take 40. You promised to give them 3 tips?  Do it with absolutely clarity. You said a change would be discussed? Don’t come with your mind made up. Do what you say you’re going to do. People remember.

So how do we boil this all down?

Be realistic about the impact of using of statistics in communicating ideas. Give numbers flesh and blood reality through storytelling.  And let genuine trust – built the old fashion way – be the hallmark of your personal communication style.