Kelly Decker, executive vice president of Decker Communications, presented at the Fidelity Investments Inside Track conference in Boston. She started her presentation by reading a script with a dry monotone delivery. After just a couple minutes, she ripped up the paper and questioned the audience on what she just said.  When asked, no attendee could remember the three points she made when she started.  None could even remember two of the three points, even though she had just said them a minute before. It turned out she was very energetic and an impactful speaker, but the approach she started with was a great example of how poor communication is very ineffective.

What Is Said Is Not As Important
Decker's real life example hit home that there is much more to communication than just words and that it is very important to connect with your listeners.  She referenced study by Albert Mehrabian which states the verbal aspects only make up 7% of communications. Vocal (38%) and visual (55%) elements make up larger percentages of how we communicate.  To prove this point, she had advisors move their arms around, doing four different things.  The last instruction was to put their hand on their chin. All attendees mimicked her, putting their hands on the side of their face. Clear evidence that the attendees followed the physical instructions much more than the verbal communication.

Decker believes that advisors focus 99% of their time working on the verbal piece, getting the words right for a presentation or meeting, although they should be focusing in other areas. Advisors often believe if they say it, clients will get it, but that is not usually the case. She believes it really has to do with trust, referencing past surveys that said in 1960 58% of people trusted others. In 1993 that number dropped to 37% and she suspected the number is probably much lower now.

Too often there are inconsistent messages. The visual cues need to match what is being said. Decker believes that individuals buy on emotion and justify the purchase with facts. Although that is often the truth, people usually forget the emotional part of the equation.

How To Be A Better Communicator
Decker stated that we all have habits and we need to recognize what we are doing, as people make judgments quickly.  She suggested five areas where advisors can work to improve:
1.    Using eye contact is crucial, as it makes or breaks the connection with the listener.  Sometimes we look down to think.  Sometimes we focus on just one person in a room.  If you are an eye darter you need to improve your habits. 
2.    Posture and movement can help bring energy to what is being said.
3.    Gestures and expressions, like smiling, can make a big difference.  Too often the smile falls by the way side when we start talking.
4.    Voice and vocal variety help keep people involved.
5.    Language and pausing are tools to use. Decker suggested that all you have to do is stop talking.  It is the one thing that will get you out of trouble, as you can gather your thoughts.  Those talking do not have to use fillers like ums, ands, sos, etc.
6.    Dress and appearance help deliver credibility.

Decker warned advisors about the curse of knowledge. The more advisors know, the more difficult it is for them to not know what they know. In other words, you need to put yourself in the shoes of your clients.  Decker finds the message from most advisors does not get across boundaries.  Advisors need to try very hard to make it about the clients, focusing on them.

At the very basic level, understand who your clients are.  What is the one thing you want them to walk away with?  It should be different for each listener.  Dexter advises staying away from the data dump.  Move from information to influence.  Make it about them. 

She said to be memorable, use a "SHARP" approach:
References and quotes
Pictures and visuals

How To Improve Bad Habits
To get advisors to work on their own communication skills, Decker mentioned a Will Rogers quote:  "Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."  She suggested getting balanced feedback from colleagues or professional coaches.  In doing so, it is important to note both the "keepers" and the areas for improvement.  She also thought getting yourself on video is a great way to understand the three components of communication.  Or do something as simple as leave yourself a voicemail and then listen to it later.  These techniques will help advisors learn their communications habits.

Scott Dell'Orfano, executive vice president of Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services, agreed that Decker's messages are pertinent.  He said, "Many advisors are working on their brand.  Sometimes it is not what is on a piece of paper that is important.  It is how you communicate."