The voice in business
A conversation with Tatjana Lackner about rhetoric and sources of inspiration, the writing down of reflections and the resulting benefits, as well as the importance of the voice in the wake of numerous digital formats and messages.
Sources of inspiration
Since the beginning of 2019, you have been running the podcast “Rhetorik: Tipps & Tools mit Tatjana”. In a recent episode, you talked about inspiration and good speakers. What do we draw inspiration from?
Tatjana: Reading and thinking helps. That much is clear. But we also get triggered and aware of topics through posts on social media. Some more through YouTube, others get fresh thoughts classically through TV or radio reports. After all, there are a number of high-quality documentaries and inspiring interviews with people who are knowledgeable in depth about content. Researching topics yourself and checking sources is also quite enjoyable – not only for media makers or journalists.
Where do you get inspiration for your columns, podcasts and newsletters?
Tatjana: On the one hand, through our rhetoric spin trainings, I get to know first-hand what clients are currently thinking about and what they would like to know more about. On the other hand, my calendar includes philosophical events, innovation talks and events that guarantee fresh water for thought. From the Philosophicum in Lech to the Duernstein Symposium to interdisciplinary exchanges with other keynote speakers – I’m thinking of Colin Crouch, Matthias Horx and Konrad Paul Liessmann, for example – there’s a lot on offer.
I also love travelling alone and getting to grips with foreign cultures or new circumstances. That enriches me every time. Fortunately, my husband and children are understanding about my ever-increasing need for quiet. “Me-time” is necessary to be able to carry out my intensive profession at the top level for 30 years.
Writing down reflections
Reflection is also part of business rhetoric. What are your concrete tips?
Tatjana: We should have both: Reflecting and looking ahead. This brings us to a forgotten discipline that even the old masters exemplified: The importance of keeping a diary.
Eugène Delacroix or Claude Monet jotted down short entries in their sketchbooks every day – theirs were also richly illustrated in colour, which fetched good money at later auctions. Pilots keep flight logs, captains document relevant information in the logbook. At THE SCHOOL OF SPEAKING we keep an organisational manual to standardise procedures and not to reinvent the wheel every year. It is always about traceability.
The great Greek-Argentinean shipowner Aristotle Socrates Onassis, who once married Jacky Kennedy, also privately recorded all his important meetings in a small book. His notebook was sacred to him and functioned like a mini-CRM. He collected preferences and contacts of his conversation partners and above all relevant topics that were talked about. Every day, these were just short sentences, little reminders in the form of keywords – yet the tanker king, who was considered the “richest man in the world” for a few years, certainly had a fuller calendar than most of us.
What concrete advantages do you see in the notes?
Tatjana: A clear advantage is to gain a better sense of time for encounters through this gentle biographical work and to have former conversation contents at hand. For example, I often hear appreciative words like, “You remember that? Great memory!”
Today, lockable diary apps serve us in this regard. There, you can even upload photos to the entries, add audio & video files and include a mood barometer. I think it’s important to practice formulating – also in writing. If you think about a title for the day and summarise in a few sentences what the essence of the past 24 hours was, you will become better at “plain speaking”.
Giving each day a note and meaning helps us – even years later – to relive that day. Otherwise, the hours fade as we move bit by bit towards death. On hectic days, there may only be three sentences:
- What triggers me?
- What emotions are currently catalysing my mind.
- What do I recognise from my reaction patterns and what from the reaction patterns of others?
For me, these short brain scripts are important exercises to control my own focus and to practise reflection in writing – according to the motto: “Look back and think forward!”
Plain speaking and the importance of the voice in business
You worte about it in your bestseller “Speech Diet” (Rede-Diät) and you just mentioned it: What is plain speaking (Klartexten)?
Tatjana: The world is full of steam talkers and swashbucklers. Many talk too fat and too indiscriminately. Our meetings today last one and a half times as long as they did in the 1980s. But the output is not higher. I am convinced that managers now lack calmness above all. How are you supposed to design ahead and make good decisions when one meeting follows the other and senior managers are only driven reactively through the day? If I were to start again today, I might have founded “The School of Silence” (laughs).
Nowadays, I find it a real blessing when someone conducts conversations in a calm, structured and, above all, empathetic manner. That makes him or her significant in terms of both content and humanity.
Do you observe changes in business rhetoric?
Tatjana: There are many changes. Before Corona, it was all about the Unique Selling Proposition. Almost 24 months later, it is primarily about the Emotional Selling Proposition and thus about the question, what made my customer buy? What was the decisive point? The unique selling proposition is important, but the emotion is crucial. And a key ingredient to this emotion is our voice.
Tatjana: Digitalisation forces us to become better analogue. It starts with our mailboxes: how do we present ourselves linguistically and hopefully grammatically correctly? In a personalised world, you don’t leave your customers to the system voice, but discuss things yourself. This requires both technical and voice-modulation skills.
Many managers are invited to podcast talks or are asked to make short video statements. In this way, decision-makers not only get their message across, but linguistic infelicities, grammatical errors and performance weaknesses may also become apparent.
I experience something similar on audio platforms such as Clubhouse or Twitter Space. Rhetorical skills are needed to inspire people only through the voice and the core message. Those who use inflationary filler words like “sometimes”, “a little”, “so to speak” are annoying. What is needed instead is to formulate a statement precisely and clearly in 25 seconds. Audio platforms in particular thrive on lively exchange. Many raise their hands and want to come onto the virtual stage to make a contribution. This is only possible if the steam chatterers do not claim all the time for themselves.
These technical achievements open up more opportunities for everyone to have an impact. This explains why, in recent years, more and more board members and executives want to improve their voice and rhetoric. The Business Rhetoric Diploma is in demand.
So the voice is becoming a factor in business?
Tatjana: Exactly. If you reach the ear of your own employee or customer, you are physically closer to his or her brain. In addition, the “voicing” of one’s own business is advancing. Explainer films have been enormously successful in recent years. Here, too, it is a matter of formulating one’s own service or the unique selling proposition of one’s own product in a target group-oriented way in a maximum of 90 seconds.
And what do you think about voice commerce?
Tatjana: With voice commerce, an avalanche is rolling out of the USA and will also digitally decide the race for the most expensive real estate location in the world in our country. Voice commerce means giving a voice command into an end device to buy or search for something online. We will continue to order pizza via the screen because, as we all know, the eye eats with us and we need pictures, but many other search queries run faster via voice command. However, if someone is on holiday and asks the voice assistant: “Where is a good pizzeria?”, and you are not ranked among the first as an Italian restaurant, then this brings clear disadvantages. As with Google, if you are ranked in front, you will be noticed.
German Information on Tatjana Lackner can be found at www.sprechen.com. She publishes interesting facts about communication in her podcast Rhetorik: Tipps & Tools. In addition, she regularly gets interesting guests from politics and business in front of the microphone for her Talk with Tatjana.
Tatjana Lackner has published additional articles here in the t2informatik Blog:
Tatjana Lackner is one of the leading communication & behavior profilers. Her eye captures people. Her ear hears personal details from every voice. She recognizes the smallest aspects of behavior. The “Trainer of the Year” (Magazin Training) is a politician coach, 6-time bestselling author, 2-time mother and already a young grandmother. Tatjana Lackner is by her effective Coachings Top Trainerin of German-language radio and television moderators, of many high-level personnel, managers, politicians and successful enterprises at home and abroad. She recognizes the potential learning fields of her clients in a flash. She formulates her trainer feedback in a precise, accurate and noticeably honest way. Tatjana Lackner’s trainings, seminars and events guarantee a high fun factor.