Russ: Welcome back to The BusinessMakers Show, brought to you by Comcast Business, built for business. I’m very pleased to have as my guest now VJ Singal, the Founder and President of The Articulate Professional; VJ, welcome to The BusinessMakers Show.
V.J.: Thank you Russ for inviting me, really appreciate that.
Russ: You bet. Tell us about The Articulate Professional.
V.J.: Well, it’s a company I founded in 1993 – little over 22 years ago – and the singular purpose of the company has been, ever since its founding, to invigorate the presentations and other key communications of executives, managers and I would say all of the professionals, particularly those in sales or engineering, who really need some, uh, testosterone pumped in for their key communications.
Russ: There you go. So is it primarily focused, or exclusively focused on the business world?
V.J.: Well when you say business world let’s not exclude government, which in a way they do the same thing as Corporate America, okay? But I’ve also often heard students and professors – you know, if you look at capitalism it’s all encompassing, that’s the American system, everything is woven into the American capitalist system so I would say anybody and everybody who is a professional of some kind – or aiming to be one – and has to persuade people from time to time, or goad them, stir them needs good communication; so yeah, it is a net that covers everyone.
Russ: I’ll tell you, I am a fan of getting it right and that’s what I like, uh, about you when I heard about you and why I invited you to be on the show. But take me back to 1993 when you started The Articulate Professional, what – what was the situation in your life that you stopped doing something and you said this is what my cause is now, this is what I want to do.
V.J.: I was a misguided fellow, I know. In the 80s I would see on television programs such as Washington Week in Review some reporters – and you’re probably familiar with the program on PBS – they would use the word interesting or something 5 or 6 times, or at least 2 or 3 times in a sentence. So here’s the typical conversation ???, so you’re asking a Gloria ??? or somebody to – these are very good reporters – they would say, you know, there was a really interesting moment in Washington this week when there was this interesting comment by so and so. So the dominant word or the word du jour becomes interesting or others.
And here were other executives, I mentioned names from Coca Cola or say Lee Iacocca, who are using very powerful or fresh adjectives to make a point. They’re not just dominated by the word interesting or something and I said if we had two categories of execs, those from the marketing firms – Disney, Coca Cola and others – who have a good command of the language, and then we have those executives, be it an engineering company – especially like TI – who have a very narrow command, and there also is one more point; I’ve seen a Wall Street Journal article in the early 90s which had a survey published by a firm in England saying the vocabulary of the typical CEO is much larger than a junior executive who’s vocabulary is typically larger than managers, so they’re drawing an unequivocal link.
It’s sort of cause and effect but yes, it helps in leadership, larger vocabulary CEOs, middling vocabulary executives and a very narrow vocabulary lower level, so all this combined plus what I’m seeing on television and I started to write my book and in 1993 when the first edition was ready to be printed and published that’s when the company was founded. Only with thinking out of?? vocabulary rest of my life but then I found there’s much more to it than vocabulary, it’s verbal and non-verbal techniques which is what led me to my seminars later.
Russ: Okay. And here’s the book we’re talking about, The Articulate Professional, uh, which is written and produced by, uh, BJ and, uh, available to this day right?
V.J.: Yeah, this is the third edition came out about 4, 5 years ago, quite right, yeah.
Russ: Okay, okay. Well I’m a huge fan of serious communication broad vocabulary even though I catch myself sometimes saying interesting way too much, but I just love spending time on your website too and – and reading about, you know, using high caliber words and how to do it in a way that you don’t appear to be pompous. Share that with out audience.
V.J.: Well, the – so let’s take it as a given that using fresh words and out of the ordinary helps. But you can’t just have words coming out ad nauseam from – let’s just take a few words like a word like inure or protestation, ebullient or dispirited – if you come out with these – the words are familiar to most educated people yes, but if you came out like 2 or 3 per sentence you would create indigestion in the listener, acute indigestion.
So what you have to do is yes, you want to use fresh words, the kind of words I just mentioned to make a point, but they should be used sparingly; that’s number one, maybe one in every two or three sentences. But not only that, I want to draw the distinction between William F. Buckley and William Bennett – no William F. Buckley – the late William F. Buckley most of the audience knows about, the most erudite and smartest guy and father of modern day conservatism Russ: right. I admired him deeply though politically we may be two different track – that’s not the point. And I describe him as a person of Olympian intellect.
Then there’s William Bennett, also Republican, former drug Czar in father Bush’s time; both have a copious vocabulary – or had in the case of William F. Buckley. But I noticed in around 1994 starting these two very articulate people who are often on the radio and tv waves, that while Mr. Buckley would be viewed by just about everybody I interviewed later or did research as being a bit pompous and pretentious. Nobody would use that for William Bennett. Why? That’s where my analysis came in. William – William Bennett always used to speak – and probably still does, I haven’t heard him lately – in synonyms. So if he used the word, say an ordinary word, he may then follow up with – let’s say he used the word unremitting. That this is – the attacks have been unremitting. He would follow that up with saying nonstop. Or he may say…
Russ: In the next – in the next sentence maybe?
V.J.: Or maybe in the same sentence. They’ve been unremitting and then there’s a spontaneous pause, that is a key technique, to be non-pompous he would say attacks from Al Qaida – in today’s world he might say they’ve been nonstop; they’re unremitting. There’s a spontaneous pause and the word is – the brain is working like a random axis device and digging into it because he’s telling a little come on ??, I want to use a fresh, stronger word and he’s already said – has been constant and nonstop and the – from the database the brain pops up with say unremitting and he says that – or unceasing – whatever comes up. So the little pause that came up – spontaneous pause I say because short – pregnant because there’s no prepared speech – it does many things.
First it gave his brain a chance to come up with a fresh word which he wanted; it’s like a left hook followed by a right hook. The – when say nonstop is the left hook and when it comes with the stronger word it comes up like a boxer’s right hook. Idea is not to be hostile, it’s more impact.
Russ: Where you would say with William F. Buckley would have just said unremitted, yeah.
V.J.: Just said unremitted. And one more thing, also the spontaneous pause, which is almost like a prerequisite for a spontaneous synonym to pop up, it gives the listener more processing time and they’ve digested – so the first word, previous one, was high caliber, they processed it and then comes the second word. So again, speaking in synonyms which often therefore means using spontaneous pauses, helps you become the speaker; to become more endearing and accessible to a listener and which is why nobody ever – in my research – used a word like pretentious for a William Bennett
Russ: All right, so say I’m a potential client and there’s already been a broad range of, uh, of things that you might offer to a client; I mean how do you show up? Do you show up I’m going to help you communicate better period, end of sentence or I’m going to help you present better, I’m going to help you converse better? Uh, it seems like these are separate categories of communication skills.
V.J.: Well they are in a sense. So when somebody approaches me – and how people hear of me is through word of mouth – but I’ve got lots of clients or former clients from major corporations or smaller companies and so on – co you’ve got all these clients through the word of mouth plus people find me on Google if they’re looking for a communication coach or they’ve heard – they may type in the word articulate which is the name of my company. So when they approach me my first question or first objective is to get into their head; find out what was their uppermost concern. In fact my first question often is if you found me on Google what did you type into Google, what are your search terms? That tells me what were their primary concern or is their primary concern in looking for a communication consultant or somebody like me.
So I’m focused, I don’t waste their time. So the 2 or 3 most common problems people have – the most common of course is they’ve got to make presentations, even children barely out of their mother’s womb, they’re having to make presentations in schools is that ??? So presentations and not being persuasive enough is the biggest problem I would say, that’s my biggest specialty. How do you make a presentation more persuasive and compelling? For many others they may not have to make presentations, the problem is how to be more effective in a meeting. Who’s – who’s a professional and not in a meeting? So how do you capture people’s interest when you’re speaking or you’re asked to make an utterance? So for there – for that I may focus on the very popular topic in my repertoire which is how do you make your point in three sentences. Most people are losing out on the audience because they talk too long or they’re trying to speak in only one sentence – not good enough.
If you want to make a point it does take a minimum of two, preferably three sentences. It’s not a good idea to be ultra – ultra concise because you want to hold people’s attention.
So that topic, then there are lots of people who approach me who say I’m often facing criticism or – yeah, there’s combat or people are disagreeing with what a company’s doing. So for them one topic I’m offering that’s very popular is how do you disarm and neutralize your critics and detractors? I might just say this, so I’m happy to mention two or three or four topics; Persuasive Presentation, How DO You Disarm and Neutralize Critics or How Do You Make Your Point in Three Sentences. This last one drew – attracted 600 people by the way – an audience of 600 – and I presented it at a convention in Denver – Project Management Institute.
The point I want to make Russ is each of these topics has been born out of a spectacular communications success or failure of an executive. So the three sentence was born in the late 90s when Eckhard Pfeiffer, the titan of Compaq, blew it in a Wall Street Week interview with Rukeyser and I was stunned that such a trained guy whom I admired when he was my boss’s boss’s boss’s boss in Texas Instruments could blow it when he started to talk too long to answer, he lost his job shortly after. So that was a technique born by my research from there. The technique on my latest topic of how to create a highly favorable first impression, very popular which is the most popular today for seminars, was born when Caroline Kennedy blew it when she was running for the U.S. Senate seat from New York. And by the way, this is not ideological criticism, I’ve long been an admirer of the late John F. Kennedy and his progeny.
When she started to use ums and uhs and you knows in her introductory presentations in New York the websites were coming up everyday New York on how many verbal ticks she had used the previous day – this was on NPR – her pole numbers fell, she resigned, uh, she quit the race. Or the one on disarming was born again the late 90s when the AT&T’s then CEO Robert Allen was ambushed by Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes and he had a grand chance, a great opportunity to market AT&T to 70 million people watching 60 minutes and he instead tried to run away from Lesley Stahl saying I don’t want to talk about the people I fired and he blew a great opportunity to disarm and promote it. So each topic is from some story that happened.
Russ: Well VJ, I hate it that we’re running out of time but I really appreciate you sharing this with me. If we’ve got a viewer or listener right now that wants to find you on the web, how do they find you?
V.J.: Well, if they just Googled The Articulate Professional, forget about the spelling of my name, just the name of the company The Articulate Professional or even they put articulate + Houston on Google they’ll be sure to come to my website.
Russ: Okay. VJ, thank you so much.
V.J.: Thanks Russ, really enjoyed it, thank you.
Russ: You bet. And that wraps up my discussion with VJ Singal, The Articulate Professional. And this is The BusinessMakers Show, brought to you by Comcast Business, built for business.
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