Karen Mckemey was a reporter for a long time and even had a weekly sports television show, now she has flipped over to the other side of the camera and is working as a media consultant, and doing a lot of media training and communications training. She was an athlete herself in a very close sister sport of ours — she was in a crew team at Old Dominion, and so has a very similar athletic background as most of our athletes. She brings to Communications Concepts over 12 years of broadcasting experience. She has written dozens of articles for parenting magazines including Family Focus and Parent magazines and is a frequent contributor to her trade journals. She was herself was a college varsity athlete and she uses that in her media background to work with coaches and others in this field to do media and communications training and work on communications strategies.
My name is Karen McKemey. I work for a company called Communication Concepts Sports Media Challenge. We are out of Charlotte, North Carolina. I want to take this opportunity to turn the tables on you guys just a little bit, I don’t want you to look at me up here as speaker with a microphone and my podium. I want you to look at me for about an hour as your coach, and I’m going to look at you as my athletes. That is the kind of relationship we’re going to have for this short period of time that we’re together. I don’t want you to sit there going alright, she’s not gonna get a whole hour, we’re gonna get out of here and we’re gonna have a good time and I’m going to meet my people for dinner. You are my athletes and I am your coach.
What I’m going to coach you on, is something a lot of coaches don’t necessarily don’t like to hear. I’m going to coach you on just one singular concept. This concept is going to be the key to you being a good leader. It’s going be a key to you being a good supervisor, it’s a key to you being a good motivator, and it’s a key for you to influence and guide your athletes. It’s a simple concept, it’s called communication.
We do it everyday. We talk to everybody, everyday. It doesn’t seem like it’s that big of a deal, but it is a very big deal. You are not only talking to your athletes, you have to deal with the parents. You have to deal with the administrators. You have to deal with the Board of Directors. You have to communicate to a really broad base of people. Now I’m not an athletic coach, I can’t tell you how to do your job as swimming coaches. I’m not even going try to tell you how to do your job as swimming coaches. You guys are the experts on swimming. You build swimming champions.
I talk about communications. I build communications champions. You guys know the ins and outs of swimming. You know all of the latest technology that’s been presented to you especially at this conference, you know all about the really neat, new, all full body suits that we’re going to see in the Olympics, very impressive. You know how to shave that 1/100th of a second off of one of your athletes times to turn that athlete into a champion. How do you become the coach that not only has the technical expertise, but also knows how to motivate the athlete, gain support from your bosses, gain support from your peers, gain support from your parents, possibly gain support from the media?
You have a very difficult job. You want to build champion swimmers. You also want to have your athletes enjoy the sport, you want to have them learn discipline, you also want to build confidence. You have a tremendous opportunity to influence other people, but you also have a tremendous opportunity to set yourself a part from the crowd and to propel your own career.
You’re going to need to learn strategies and tactics to build your image, to become a communications champion, so that others are going to remember you and that they are going to remember your ideas.
We have several keys to powerful communication. There is a key to building and understanding your image. There is a key to being an effective communicator — how well can you get your point across. There is a key to handling question and answer sessions. Sometimes you may have to deal with them and sometimes they’re fun. A lot of times they’re not so fun. Now my personal favorite is nine steps to working the crowd. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to work a room full of people, it could necessarily mean that you have to talk to a handful of parents that have some concerns. Or, how you network when you are at a convention like this.
What we are going to talk about first off, is your image. Right now I’m standing here in front of you and you are sizing me up. You can say, hate her hair, hate her dress, hate her shoes, can’t see my shoes, she has that twangy sort of southern accent that really grates on my nerves. You are making assumptions based on me just standing here speaking to you. Do you know what I like? Do you know if I’m married? Do you know if I have children? Do you know what kind of movies I like? Do you know what makes me happy? Do you know what terrifies me? No, you don’t, but, my appearance speaks volumes to you.
In face to face communications, the research shows 93% of your effectiveness rests solely on how you look and how you sound. It’s not very comforting that 7% of your message comes from content. 93% of what people are getting from you is what you look like and what you sound like. Now you can say, “I’m an excellent coach, I have a proven track record, my team is winning. It really doesn’t matter what I look like, my appearance doesn’t necessarily have to do with how my athletes perform.” Well the elements of your image are pieces of a puzzle that you build day by day that you create results.
So you’re out of swim practice, your athletes are in the pool, you’re walking on the deck, you’re being a coach, you’re dressed in flip flops, you’re dressed in cut-offs, your shirt may be off, you may be wearing one of those new fangled sports bra tops that we saw. You’re a coach and your athletes know that you’re the coach and there is not any question about that. You say, “I’m working from a certain comfort level, this is how I’m comfortable, I am a swim coach.” But, what happens when an adult walks by, possibly a board member, somebody who could be deciding on your budget request — he thinks you’re the life guard and he keeps on walking by.
You may choose, on the other hand, to wear a yellow golf shirt, some khaki pants, and white tennis shoes. You are projecting a different image, a more professional image. I’m not going to tell you what image is correct, that’s not my job. What I’m going to say is you need to take a look at what image do you want to project, what image does your club or organization want you to project? You are an image, you are part of a package.
The bottom line, perception is reality. It’s not something that everybody wants to hear, it’s not something that everybody agrees with. You always hear, “Well, you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.” Believe me that cover speaks volumes, perception is reality. You have only a couple of seconds to make a very important first impression. When you look and sound and speak a message of confidence. People have a tendency to believe you. You can be winging it, but if you project that image of confidence they will tend to listen to what you have to say. I’m not telling you to create an image. We are not politicians, I’m not a spin doctor. I’m not making you into something you’re not. What I’m telling you is you need to build an image, and build is the key word.
You have to build that image through exposure and performance and what I mean by exposure is, before I walked up here I had to do a little bit of preparation, I had to think about what I was going to say, I had to get a couple of my overheads together. I had to map out, “alright I’m dealing with a bunch of swim coaches, they are really going to want to hear about somebody talking about yada, yada, yada…” Once I stand up here my job is not complete. Getting to here was part of my job.
When I was walking through the hallway I was looking at a lot of your faces, I was being exposed to a lot of different people, how I performed during these interactions creates an image about me and it can have impact in ways that I might not know about yet, both professionally and personally. Let me give you an example. If I was rushing down the hall, papers falling out of my bag, somebody stopped me and said, “Oh Karen I want to talk to you for a minute.” And I said, “I’m sorry I gotta get to room 203. I’m supposed to give a speech. I just need to focus, I need to get there.” For all I know it could have been George trying to offer me a hand, trying to introduce himself, trying to tell me that he was going to be the one who was going to be flipping my overheads and I brushed him off. What does that say about my image and about what I’m trying to project to him? Is he going to ask me to come back and speak ever again? I don’t know. So you are always building your image.
Now we are going to go to the flip side of image building. It’s just something to be aware of — what takes five years to build can come crashing down in just about five minutes. What I mean is mud sticks. When I say mud sticks I’m saying negative information dominates. We are supposed to be a very optimistic society, not necessarily always true. I’m going to ask you guys a couple of questions and I want you to raise your hand. How many people know who Ray Caruth is? How many of you know that he played for the Carolina Panthers? Some of you at first didn’t recognize the name but then when I said he played for the Carolina Panthers you knew. How many of you know what his record was on the playing field? How many of you know he is sitting in prison right now, arrested for killing his girlfriend? Oh, look at that nobody remembers what he did, but you know that he’s in prison.
It is a pretty easy example so I’m going to give you another one. How many people know Ray Lewis? O.K. how many of you guys know that he played for the Baltimore Ravens? A couple of hands. How many of you know that he was involved in an altercation outside an Atlanta nightclub? A lot of you. How many of you know that the charges were completely dropped? O.K. a couple of you were not aware that the charges were completely dropped, that he was exonerated. O.K. mud sticks, people are going to remember the negative. It’s just a fact of life. Here he worked to build image, there was a negative, a pretty huge one, it was all over the press, but a lot of people don’t recall that the charges were eventually dropped. Mud sticks.
A different case. We receive information every day, tons of it, through the media, print journalism, television, from your friends, from your colleagues, from your spouses, from your girlfriends, from your children. People are constantly bombarding you with information, from the minute you wake up. O.K. that is just normal information, it kind of goes in and it kind of goes out. You retain some, you don’t retain some. There is no way we can retain it all, not all of the information that you get every single day. Now, studies show that when you hear positive information, you are twice as likely to retain that information. So, if you take your position as a coach, and you are projecting information to your athletes and you give them positive comments then they are twice as likely to retain that positive comment.
There is also negative information, negative comments, negative news. You are four times as likely to hold on to that negative information then you are to that regular information. Let me give you an example. A guy named Joe comes up you and says, “I saw coach Clark the other day, he was at the world clinic in Cincinnati.” “Hey glad to hear it. How’s he doing?” “Fine.” You get on the plane, you go home. Do you really remember that so and so saw somebody else? Not really.
What about, “Hey Joe I saw coach Clark in Cincinnati. He won an award as the best new coach.” Positive information — are you going to remember that? Probably, you may.
Now, “Hey Joe, I saw coach Clark in Cincinnati at the convention, he didn’t see me though, he was out in the hallway arguing with another coach. He looked really angry, he was in his face, he was talking really loud, I just kinda walked the other way.” Are you going to remember that? Definitely, regardless of what you thought about coach Clark in the beginning. Your last information was negative information, you are going to remember that information. You are always building that image, you are a package deal.
So you’re working on your image. You’re somewhere between Bobby Knight and Dean Smith, in a broad spectrum of things. Now you have to be able to communicate, to find a way to get through to your athletes. I call this self preservation. Why is it self preservation? Because in order to get through to your athletes, you have to be a good coach. To be a good coach you have to be able to get through to your athletes. When you get through to your athletes and you’re a good coach, you keep your job, it’s self preservation. Communication is the key to keeping that job.
Now when I talk about communication, that does not mean standing up in front of a group and speaking for an hour. When you communicate to people you can use very few words to get your ideas across effectively, it just takes a little planning on your part.
Now I’m going to give you a story. About three years ago I was working over seas and I was working with a colleague and we were working on an article on Cross Cultural Communication. We were in Italy, we were working out of this house that was turn of the century, I don’t think it was this Century, it was an ancient house. Obviously with some of these older houses you can’t run those gas lines underneath the house to come up and heat your water and work your washer and dryer and heat your house. They have these things called bumbalas, and I’m going to tell you about the bumbala man.
Now when we were in the house working, we were writing and we were discussing, O.K. we need to figure out ways to get points across with a language barrier. It is difficult to talk to people when they don’t understand your language. There are different ways to communicate. So that was what the article was about, we were discussing it we were writing it. We all of the sudden were freezing cold. We look out the window as see the landlady with these long cylindrical things, they are almost like the blue rhino’s that you plug into your gas grill, except elongated. They are long and narrow and they are pretty heavy and she had a fleet of them because you hook them up to your dryer when you want to dry your clothes and you hook it up to your stove when you want to work your stove, and you put a little table over it and hook it to the thing when you want to heat your house. It’s a little rustic. But, we realized that none of the bumbalas were working, so she called the bumbala man on the phone and an hour or two later — he really didn’t have any sense of urgency to get over there — out comes the bumbala man.
He comes up these stone steps that lead to her house, and he is wearing this old sweater and his corduroy pants that you know grandpa wore — they were just real pressed, and worn shoes and these pressed worn shoes and he was all stooped over from a lifetime of carting these bumbalas up and down these steps. You can’t get a cart up there. He had to physically carry these bumbalas up these stone steps, so he comes up and I’m feeling so sorry for him by this time. He walks into the house, and we’re trying to explain the problem and he starts to sniff. So he walks into the house and he is walking around the house sniffing. I’m looking at my colleague and say it’s not me. He is sniffing, and he turns slowly around and he says, “gas, no bueno, boom.” Four words, got his point across, we packed up our stuff, we got out of the house. They had a gas leak in the house. He sniffed it out. Four words, across a cultural barrier. He was able to express himself effectively enough to get me and my colleague out of that house, four words. When you communicate, choose your words carefully, you will always remember the bumbala man.
Now when we are talking about cross cultural communication like I was with the bumbala man. We also have a little bit of a cultural gap when it comes between coaches and athletes. They are generation X and generation Y. I teetered on in on the end of that generation X and contrary to popular belief we are growing up and doing O.K., I think a lot of you can agree with that, it’s that generation Y that we have to worry about. These are the people that were born after 1982 which is hard to believe, but they are out there and they’re swimming for you. Face it these kids have computer chips in their brains, they were born with them, they have been bombarded from day one with MTV, with Nintento, with video games. They demand quick, concise, graphic packaging when you’re talking to them, and that’s just to get their attention. That’s not saying you’re going to keep their attention once you have it.
Now you can think, “I’m their coach. They are going to listen to me regardless of what I say. They’re swimming for me, they’re gonna listen to me.” This is when you have to think about “What’s in it for them.” OR WIFM — What’s in it for me? When you all walked in here, you’re thinking the same thing, What’s in it for me? Why do I need to stand up there and listen to communication about my image, what’s in it for me? When you are talking to your athletes or to your parents, or to your board of directors, when you’re communicating with them, think of what they’re thinking. They’re thinking what’s in it for me.
The next one is when you start thinking about the audience that you’re talking to. You need to know the audience that you’re talking to. So you have to think about, who are they? Am I going to give a real motivational speech to my athletes today, am I going to be asking my board of directors for some more money, am I going to have to talk to a group of parents who think I’m not doing my job very well? Who is your audience? That is important to remember when you’re trying to communicate. What is their background, where are they coming from, are they angry, are they happy, are we coming off a big win, are they excited? What do they expect from you? Are they expecting good news, are they expecting not so good news, and if they’re expecting that not so good news, how receptive are they going to be to what you have to say?
Now I know a lot of you came here to learn about the latest in techniques in getting those swimmers to swim faster, what is out there? A speech on how to communicate or build your image may not have been number one on your list. “Oh I’m going to star that one and I’m going to be there in the front.” So I had to come into this thinking “what are they expecting from me, what do they want to hear from me.” Your sitting there thinking, what’s in it for me, what am I gonna come away with.
Now, once you have started thinking about your audience, you need to start thinking about your strength and weaknesses as a communicator, I started this by saying we all know how to communicate from a very, very early age. You’ve known how to kind of get your point across. But you need to start thinking about what makes me good at getting my point across, and what do I need help on?
A couple of things to think about: think about your voice. Are you gruff and aggressive, are you a real energetic type person, clapping your hands, are you a hugger, do you grab those kids and do you hug those kids all the time? Do your gestures match your words. If I exhibit a closed body posture and say, “After this you guys can ask me some questions and I’ll be open to hear whatever you have to say. Am I very open to what you have to say.” No, my gestures don’t match my words. when your open your open and when your closed your closed. It’s something that we do subconsciously. A lot of the times your gestures need to match your words. What about your facial expressions? “Way to go guys, great job today, fabulous.” No that is not going to fly. You use your facial expressions.
Now you’re saying to me, you’re sitting there and you’re going, “oh, O.K., I’m one of those people, I am the strong silent type, my kids know what I expect from them, they know what to expect from me, I’m not a big demonstrative person, I’m not going to go hug them, I’m not gonna be jumping up and down on the sidelines, that is my personality, that is my style.” I’m not asking you to change your style, if you are aware of what your style is, that is fine, but you also need to be aware of how people perceive that style. So you’re the strong silent type, you run deep, you’re really thinking about these things, you’re really thinking about these kids, you love these kids, you’re just not very expressive about it. Now, I may know that about you, you may have told me that, your spouse may know that, your assistant coach may know that, your girlfriend may know that, your boyfriend may know that. But, if I don’t know you, and I see you standing there, what am I going to think? Am I going to think you’re standoffish, do I think you’re ignoring me, am I gonna think as an athlete that maybe I didn’t do a good enough job to get some enthusiasm out of you? So what I’m saying is, don’t change your personal style, be aware of your personal style.
Now whether you’re ready to communicate to the team or you just want to talk to somebody out in the parking lot, we have a little formula that is going to help you when you’re trying to communicate your thoughts, and that is called the PREP formula. P stands for point of view. You always have a point of view. Go into every topic of discussion with a set point of view. It keeps everything kind of clear and on the right track. The second is explain your reasoning, get behind why you have that point of view. Then, site your evidence, and then finally, always bring everybody back to your point of view, so you have an opinion. So and so’s not swimming in the meet because, you have your reasons, you need to state your reasons. Why aren’t they swimming in the meet — the reason is they are not performing well, they haven’t trained well. Do you have evidence, yes I have evidence — they haven’t been showing up for practice. Then back to you point – they won’t be swimming in the meet. It is clear, it is concise, it keeps you focused on the task at hand.
So it’s pretty basic, it’s a little bit boring. You’re going in to give a speech, you got a point of view, you got your reasons, you’re going back to your point of view. Well now what you need to look at, are steps to add creativity to your speaking. Paint pictures with words, do you remember the bumbala man? Yes you remember the bumbala man. When I was explaining about image, I said a yellow shirt and khaki pants and white shoes — I was using color, when I spoke. I didn’t just say, put on a golf shirt and a pair of pants. It’s simple things, using color to create image when you’re speaking. Use stories and anecdotes, everybody has a bumbala man, everybody has a story, every single person has something humorous that has happened to them that can make them real.
Target your audience. When you target your audience you need to think about who you’re talking to. Once again are you talking to your athletes, are you talking to your parents? You may use a different story for your athletes than you would use for your parents. It’s kind of thinking about who you are speaking to and where they’re coming from.
Get the audience to be involved, raising your hands, doing some kind of ice breaker, bringing everybody in as a group as a whole, bringing them together. Change your speaking environment. It’s a little difficult in this environment to work the room, but you don’t have to stand behind the podium, you don’t have to stand behind the microphone, you don’t have to stand behind the table, you can work around the room, you can talk to different people, you can look at different people, use your visual aids, cut out a cartoon from the newspaper, take a video of people together, use a music video, think about interesting ways that you want to get your point across.
Now, we’re going to go a little bit from how to communicate into a more challenging environment and that’s how to handle questions and answers. I love this quote from Walter Cronkite. I’m sure you have heard of it several times, he says there are not bad questions, only bad answers. That is so true, you have one mission when you’re handling question and answer sessions — now this could be question and answers sessions from your board of directors or from your parents or even from the media — if you have to discuss something with them your goal is you have to maintain command and you have to maintain control. It is always easy to talk about a winning season, it is always easy to answer questions about your star athlete, it is not always that easy to talk about those more challenging questions.
So what do you do when you get those challenging questions? It is as simple as ABC. Acknowledge the emotions in the room. Now I’m saying this because it could be a wonderful atmosphere and everybody is happy and that is fine. But there may be people that are upset, they have a right to their opinions, they have a right to be upset. You as a coach need to acknowledge that they are upset.
B is to bridge or transition back to your point of view. I know I have mentioned point of view several times, you need to bring people back to your primary focus of what you want to say. You can do little transition sentences, say “when we look at it this way,” or “the key issue seems to be XYZ.” Use little transitional phrases to bring people back, get those emotions down a little, bring them back to your point of view. Also, and I can’t say this enough, do not repeat negatives. If somebody says, “one of your athletes really stink,” don’t say, “they didn’t stink, they were just trying their best.” You are repeating out of that, stink, stink, stink — that is all anyone is going to remember. When somebody says a negative, don’t repeat it, turn it into a positive, bring them back to your point of view.
Now the C is concisely state your position, your point of view on the situation, constantly bring them back.
Making the best of questions and answers sessions. When I was thinking about this you may think well I don’t really have a lot of questions and answer sessions, people really don’t ask me a bunch of questions after a meet, and you know even if it is, it is such a hectic environment, I just don’t have the time. There may be a time when you’re presented with a situation where you have to answer some pretty tough questions. Now what you need to do is, if you know something happened on your team and you are aware of it and you need to address it, think of all the possible questions, that somebody could throw at you. Practice your answers. It may sound silly and you’re thinking I’m not gonna come up with everything that they’re gonna come up with, of course not. But you can anticipate where the feel is gonna go.
If you’re going to give a speech or you’re talking to your group practice, write down possible questions. You might think it’s silly, but, when you are prepared with an answer, people are going to listen to that answer and they are going to believe that answer. Listen to each question carefully, it is O.K. to say, especially when you’re dealing with the media, “I don’t understand that question, can you repeat it.” Listen to the question, you may answer something that you didn’t intend to answer, correct misstatements.
For example, we don’t deal well with rumors. Nobody likes rumors, rumors get out of control. If somebody says “I hear one of your athletes was using performance enhancing drugs, and that is why they broke that record in the swimming pool today,” that could be totally off the wall. It could hit you from left field. Now if you say, he did not use performance enhancing drugs, what do you remember? Performance enhancing drugs. You don’t state rumors, but, you can correct it very positively, by saying, “my athlete trained exceptionally hard. That win was well deserved.” You did not restate the negative and you nipped the rumor and you brought it back to a positive.
Stay cool, tactful, personal and compassionate. How easy is that in front of a room full of really angry parents? It’s not so easy to stay compassionate, it’s not so easy to stay personal with everybody in the room, but these are guides for you to be an effective communicator.
When we don’t know the answer, we don’t like to admit when we don’t know, but it’s O.K. it makes you human. If you decide to spin out of control and say, “well we did it this way, because and we did it this way because…,”, there goes your credibility out of the window. If you say, “we tried it and it didn’t work,” there is your humanity. People tend to respect the humanity.
Treat each answer as a mini speech. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t. When we went in with those ABC’s of speaking, bring everybody back to your point of view, always restate your main focus. Now, what happens when the natives get restless, you are in the room and there are very cranky people in the room and they all want a piece of you, what do you do? You have to separate the people from the problem, which means you have that angry parent that sits in front of you every single time, and he keeps going over and over this issue that you have been over and over a hundred times. He is a person he is not necessarily the problem. Understand where he is coming from, can you relate to his position? Can you say, “I understand you feel that way, but these are the things that we are going to do.”
State your problem in terms of interest, what are your people interested in, what do they necessarily want to hear, list your options. Everything is not cut and dry, especially not in a coaching situation, options make everything a little more credible. When I say make threats credible, I’m saying if you get up in front of a group of people and say, “if you don’t do XYZ you are off the team.” Can you enforce that? Not necessarily. When you are addressing people, make sure you back up everything you say with a plan of action, if you’re not going to be able to follow through with it, there goes your credibility. Always, once again, bring your talk back to the primary focus, why are you here, what do you want to accomplish, who are you talking to.
Now I want you to remember at the bottom of all this that it is imperative when you are speaking to a group of people and they may get a little out of control, that you need to control your emotions, because, bottom line, that is very important.
So, we are going on to my favorite part of this whole talk and that is no matter how much you may want to avoid it, networking is a very big part of your job. It’s not all about swimmers, is there anybody out there that is willing to admit that they have mingle phobia? Yes, there are! I’m proud that you are able to admit that you have mingle phobia. You walk into the convention, you enter a room and you realize that you don’t know one person in this entire place. You are swimming in a sea of unfamiliar faces, all of your self assurance goes right down the drain, what do you do? Do you hide? Do you go pick that very far back corner to sit in all by yourself with your stuff, do you leave? Is it just not working for you, does it make you incredibly uncomfortable? Or do you extend you hand to the first person you meet and look them in the eye and introduce yourself, it’s a ice breaker. Everything comes easier right after that.
First of all when you walk into a room of people, remember it’s a room full of people — you not alone. You’re not the only one that feels uncomfortable in these situations, everybody else is a little bit anxious. Number 2, fake it until you make it, which means plaster that big old smile on your face until somebody cozies on up to you and now you have a buddy. If you appear confident, amazing things can happen and you will actually feel that way, you are projecting that to other people.
Now I’m going to tell you nine steps to work in the crowd, or work in the room, whether it be a convention, or a room full of your parents. Personally and professionally, when you came to this convention, what was your goal? Did you want to learn the latest techniques? Where you out there kind of strumming up for that new job? What do you want to get out of entering the situation? The second one is put others at ease. It’s the good old southern hospitality, I like to call it, which means that you adopt a host approach not a guest approach in everything you do. When you walk into a room you host that room, you are not an inactive participant, you are not a guest, you are a host. That means that if there is a group of people talking don’t barge in to the middle of the conversation, but you can stand on the outskirts and you can wait for a time to introduce yourself. Most people will include, you they really will. Don’t get locked here with friends, we all came here with a buddy, right, you’re gonna sit next to your buddy. Maybe you’re thinking, “I’m here with my friends, there is a couple of people that I’ve seen at a couple of these conventions, I’m going to talk to them, there is a couple of people here that I’ve never seen before in my life, I’m never going to speak to them ever.” No. New people expand your horizons, new people, bring you new contacts. Remember you are promoting yourself, you are networking, so you may run into somebody that could really impact you.
Identify common interest. We all have one here, swimming, nice. O.K., but there are other interests, there is a reason we all talk about the weather, we talk about it because it is a common denominator, because we are all going through it and we are all experiencing it, it makes me connected to you. While, yes you talk about swimming, you may want to talk about other things, that you can talk about.
Be genuine. Make eye contact, eye contact, eye contact. This is such a pet peeve of mine, ask my three children, all the time when they are speaking to me, look at me, look at me, look at me, look at me in the eye. Eye contact, it is incredibly important. Smile when you are talking to someone, that is incredibly important. Offer your hand, be the first one to offer your hand, make yourself human, make yourself available to people. My mother used to say, “don’t be rude and exclude.” Do not when your standing in a group of people focus on one person and just talk to him not pay attention to anybody else around you. It’s rude. Look around, look at the other people that are in your group and that you’re talking to.
Listen to ideas and not words. It is important when you are a good communicator, to be a very active listener and a good listener. You may come up with some really neat information that you can use later on. Ideas are powerful and some people have really powerful ideas.
Now, this limit to five minutes per person thing: I’m not saying set your watch, beep, “times up gotta go, see you later.” What I’m saying is that when you walk into a group of people this is especially important. If you have an after win meet party, the season is over, you have a lot of parents that want to talk to you, you have a lot of kids that want to talk to you, you have a lot of administrators that may want to talk to you — if you are over in the corner talking to your best friend or your star athlete, or the parent that was the most active on the boosters, you have left out a whole group of people that really, really want your time, so try and mingle with several different groups of people. You have a responsibility to the entire group, easier said than done. I know we all have those people that really enjoy monopolizing our time. It’s hard to say, “excuse me gotta go, my five minutes are up, I was told that I only had five minutes to talk to you, you can’t use me as an escape goat.” What you can do, however, is if some other parent comes up, you can say, “Tom I would like you to meet Judy, Judy, Tom, both of your kids have swam for me, I know that both of you have children in XYZ school…” You may not be able to eeek all this information out of your parents, but there are ways that you can. You introduce them, you start them talking, you slowly move on to the other group.
Thank you notes and business cards. It is so easy to whip off that email “thank you, thank you, thank you it was really great meeting you,” sent, done. Personal touches, sometimes we lose touch of those personal touches, just writing a thank you note to somebody who came to visit you to talk to your kids, it’s really important. If you were invited to go somewhere, just a simple thank you card.
Business cards, I love them, take them. When you receive that business card from somebody, think about who sent it to you, was it the woman in the green shirt with the blonde hair and the sandals, she said her husband’s name was Tim, she said he did XYZ, I’m retaining information. I’m not going to remember that information when I get on the plane, but if she was a good contact, I’m gonna whip out her card. The next time I see her, she has told me that Tommy her son is playing in a little league tournament and they are expected to be the champions. When I call her I can ask her how Tommy did. It blows people away, that you have remembered the tiniest tidbit of information. Why did it blow them away? It makes them feel special. And everybody that you come in contact with, whether they are the abrasive, or the warm fuzzies, they are all special when you treat people that way, they react to you that way.
These are pretty obvious but they are ways not to work a crowd. I love these, they are obvious, but they can’t be overstated because we all tend to do them. I know them and on the plane I was talking to somebody about a former boss I had, and I was thinking the whole time about I’m gonna go give a talk about how not to that. You don’t complain about your boss, you don’t complain about your teammates, your staff, you don’t complain about your team, you don’t complain about your parents. It will come back and it will bite you, it always does. You don’t gossip, well, I know we all want to share that nice juicy tidbit of information we just learned, especially after a convention like this. You’re gonna go home with lots of funny stories, save them for your speech. Do not gossip, it will get huge and I like I said it comes around to bite you and with gossip it comes around ten fold because you’re gonna say, “I didn’t say that.” No, but, it came from you.
Don’t openly discuss salaries. We all know this, but we all do it. Did you here what Tim got for that job? It’s just not a right thing to do. Probably in a small interpersonal, where you are really familiar with somebody, but, you’re still discussing it is still not a good thing to do. Don’t talk about scandals. I talked about the two Rays didn’t I, those were both scandals, they didn’t have anything to do with my work and the people at my work. You don’t want to perpetuate rumors, you want to stop rumors. If you sit there and you continually discuss scandals that are going on and what the latest is, you are going to be a builder of those rumors instead of squashing. And don’t drink too much. Now, we’ve all been to the social event where those gin and tonics keep on coming and you’re feeling really good and everybody is having a wonderful time. You are not in control of your situation, when you are out with your buddies or you are out with your girlfriends. When you’re at a convention, when you’re in a social situation, when you are at the team rap up party, do you really want your athletes to see you three sheets to the wind? Not really. They will talk about it and that one will come back and bite you again.
As I’m rapping up here, I want you to remember a couple of things. When you become a communications champion you can guarantee that people will hear you, they will understand what you are trying to say, and they are going to remember your ideas. Progress begins one step at a time, there is no big leap to greatness. Your success lies in doing day by day, your success lies in your image, in building your image, in communicating and expressing your ideas, in being able to work your way out of a difficult situation, in being able to network that entire package to other people.
Kathleen Hessert is the founder of Communications Concepts which is my company that I work for, and she wrote this book, it is a fabulous book, it’s called the Coaches Communications Playbook. I’ve used it a lot. It touches on some of the things I talked about, but it really goes deep into dealing the media, dealing with your team if they come into a crisis situation and how to deal with that, how a crisis can impact your athletes, impact your entire organization.
(The book is available through ASCA.)
(Inaudible question) Answer: Might I list some others ideas to move on when you’re in a group and you have to move from person to person? O.K. that is a great question, one of the things that we suggest is that you have a closing comment in your mind, you come up with a closing statement that is always kind of bring you back. When you look at them in the eye and you say, “it was really great sharing this with you, it’s been a fabulous season, you know what I want to go over here and I’m going to discuss XYZ or what you just said, I’m gonna bring it up to Bob,” — it’s a nice transition. I can’t give you a whole set of examples, because every situation is different, and I know you’re looking for that list but they are all not necessarily going to work. I firmly believe in looking people in the eye, a lot of times if you’re saying, “yes, uh uh yes,” you are hurrying that person into finishing what they have to say, not the most polite thing to do. Be a real active listener, give them one clear concise question, say, “that was fantastic. I’m really glad that you shared that with me, I’m going to share it over here, it was great to see you I’ll touch back with you before this is all over.” You have to be in control of the situation.
(Inaudible question) Answer: O.K. and you gotta get off the phone. Is this an irate parent? Is this, assess your situation, the parent loves you, yes. This parent is an active involved parent, right and I’m sure it is and you don’t have the time or the energy to want to go through every single one of your plans of attacks for the next couple of swim meets. What I suggest is you be a very active listener for a short period of time, they are going to run out of wind sooner or later. They are going to give you a view point, why did they call? Address the first issue as to why they called. The first thing that they are going to say is usually the most important one, address that issue, and then say, “I appreciate all of your feedback and comments, is there a time that we can together at another time to discuss these issues?” Then your calendar suddenly gets very, very full, but it’s a way to kind of address a primary issue, keep them on the focus. You can say, “I’m really glad you shared this with me, let me think about my answer and I will get back with you, I appreciate it.”
(Inaudible question) Answer: I work for Communication Concepts Sport Media Challenge, it is sports.mediachallenge.com. It is the resource for coaches, for athletes and for administrators. We have something on there called the cyber communication coach, which means you, when you sign up to that, you can log on that with your question and in 24 to 48 hours we’ll get back to you with an answer on how to handle a communication problem, also what we have on there are hot topics that we discuss. The article that is just up there for this month is political correctness and how far it has gone in sports, how PC can you be, I think is the hot topic of this month. That stems that from the incident at Dodger Stadium. It basically deals with communication issues, within the athletic community, you can have a star athlete especially when you get to the college level, they can be a horrible interview that reflects upon your entire program. I was talking to a gentleman out in the hall, and I said Dan Jansen is one of our favorite people to talk about. He said Dan Jansen is everybody’s favorite person to talk about, but he was a horrible speaker, he really never ever got his point across, what we do, one of the things that we do, is we take athletes, we take coaches, we provide them with training, we provide them with resources on how to deal with people, on how to deal with all sorts of people, and a lot of that is on the website. There is all sorts, it’s just a wealth of information. We also have skill tests for you to do, whether you’re a coach, whether you’re an athlete, whether you’re an administrator, we have a skills test, you can kind of click on it and go through and take your own test on how good of a communicator you are, on how well you think you can handle a crisis when it comes up on your team. Those are all things that come up on the website.
I’m going to leave you with this one little quote. It’s from Colossians 4:6, it’s one of my favorite verses and it says, “let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how to answer everyone. Thank you.