The hear and now: recognizing a need, a communication consultant created a unique tool to help speakers improve.

Author:Gobeil, Marianne
Position:Case in point - Column

In advising clients how to prevent as well as survive communication crises through my firm, Leading Communicators, I became acutely aware of how important it is for a leader to communicate strategically and effectively. Attending speeches, presentations and meetings, I started to notice how disengaged most people in the audience were. When asked afterward how they felt about their presentation, though, the speakers said, "Great!"--regardless of how poorly they had spoken. They were failing to speak in the way that would advance their goals and objectives, and they had no idea. Not only was this a missed opportunity, but it could also be harmful to the reputations and operations of their organizations.

I set out to determine what exactly goes into effective speaking. What makes people listen, understand and respond? My quest led to the development of Speakcheck, a diagnostic tool that measures the effectiveness of a leader's communication.

From 2007 to early 2013, my research involved reading books and articles on cognitive science, rhetoric, linguistics and more, as well as interviewing experts on subjects from dramatic performance to leadership development. Speakcheck is based on the leading research on strategic leadership communication, drawn from diverse disciplines.

The tool needed to objectively assess how effectively a leader gives speeches, presentations and other oral communications; reflect the foremost research and best practices distinct to leadership communication; be relevant to the leader's role and business environment; and be compelling enough for the leader to integrate its findings into his or her communication capability.

Leading Communicators identified more than 150 elements to gauge the content and delivery of a leader's communication. Based on these elements, I had a research company design an objective 10-point scaled questionnaire, which a developer embedded into software. To test it, the Speakcheck diagnostic was applied to 40 different speeches and presentations by some of the greatest historical and contemporary leaders and communicators. Individual metrics were adjusted and tested against key benchmark communications until the resulting scores were valid and reliable, and each metric was precisely defined to ensure universally valid scores.

Once Speakcheck had been tested and proven, the challenge was to educate the marketplace about it. Initially, the sales process was long due to that education process. So I...

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