Five Steps to Develop Effective Communication

I’ll never forget hearing Zig Ziglar speak at a conference, back in 1978. It was my freshman year of college and he quickly became my role model for memorable communication. Zig was a salesman by training, and boy could he sell an idea. He became a best-selling author of several books, helping people build confidence, self-esteem and to set important goals in their life. Yep, Zig Ziglar was a master:

  • He told stories.
  • He reduced helpful ideas to memorable statements.
  • He made people laugh.
  • He played mental games to make his point.
  • He used visual aids to keep us alert.
  • He always included both your head and your heart.

Pause and reflect for a moment on communicators you’ve heard speak at conventions, retreats, special events or other conferences. My guess is—some of them were so good you can still remember their big idea. Others, I imagine, you only remember their name. You can’t remember what they said for the life of you.

Most of you reading this article communicate with students in some context. If you’re like me—you win sometimes, and you lose sometimes. You have days you’re on and those kids are fully engaged with you; and then there are those days, you feel like nothing you do will get through.  Years ago, I was scheduled to speak to a gym full of middle school students. I had my opening game ready, my slide deck, video clips and discussion questions. The problem was—the electricity went out just before I began. Soon—the natives became restless and I had to take on that crowd with no digital or electrical help. I quickly observed how much I depend on technology.

The experience reminded me of what I’ve learned about teaching over the years.

The Transferrable Communication Concepts You Can Use

For everyone who teaches or leads students, let me offer an agenda for making the most of your communication with them. These elements make your message stick:

1. Illumination (Epiphany)

Begin with an idea that is fresh and memorable. Find a creative way to provide a concept or principle they’ll find relevant to their life.

2. Illustration (Examples)

Next, provide them with stories or models of what this concept looks like in real life. This enables them to file the information in a way that accelerates understanding.

3. Conversation (Interaction)

Next, create an environment for them to interact with the idea, enabling their dendrites to fire and help them determine what they want to embrace.

4. Repetition (Condition)

This step fosters memory. What gets repeated often gets remembered. In this step, you condition them with models, helping them carve neural pathways in their brain.

5. Practice (Experiences)

Students tend to need a point for their head, a picture for their heart and a practice for their hands. Practice insures learning, communication and retention.

For those of you who teach Habitudes®, this is extra important. We designed the Habitudes images to foster this order above—from an epiphany, to a story to a conversation to a practice—repeated over and over through time.

I spoke with some university staff in Texas recently, who I first met when they were students sixteen years ago. Each of them remembered several of the “images” that make up the Habitudes curriculum. Those simple images on life skills and leadership stuck in their heads and are now part of their neuropathways. They each admitted they didn’t know how important those principles were at the time, but now find themselves using them in their professional routines today. They didn’t even realize they were paying attention.

We have to remember—the key is life change, not entertainment.


Learn More About Engaging Communication
Habitudes for Communicators: The Art of Engaging Communication

The Art of Engaging Communication helps teachers, coaches, youth workers, parents, and employers:

  • Engage young people at the heart level and foster life-change
  • Get your point across in a matter of minutes
  • Motivate listeners to “own” your message

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Five Steps to Develop Effective Communication