What Roger Federer teaches us about communication…

24th April 2018

The most important shot in tennis is the serve. For two reasons:

  • It dictates the point. Serve well and you should win the point. Serve badly and you’ll probably lose it; and
  • It’s the only shot in tennis when you aren’t responding to where your opponent has hit the ball. Which means that – if you serve badly – it’s your fault. After all, they haven’t been involved yet!

And it’s exactly the same with communication…

When you meet with someone, your first sentence is your first serve. Start well and the meeting should go well. Start badly and it probably won’t.

And if your opening sentence is poor? That’s your fault. After all, they haven’t said anything yet.

For example, in your weekly update meeting, I’ve heard updates start with the immortal phrase “Same rubbish. Different week. Let’s try and get it done in an hour.”

That is a bad serve.

You could instead say: “I’ve really been looking forward to today’s meeting. I’ve got a couple of new, important things to share with you. Also, I think we’ll be finished early this week.”

Now that’s a good serve. Ten seconds in, and they’re all listening already.

Another quick example – the email to follow-up a customer meeting…

You could serve with “Thanks very much for sparing the time to see me today.”

And that is ok. But it’s deferential and subservient. They wouldn’t thank you for generously sparing your time.

Instead, a more equal, peer-to-peer serve: “I enjoyed our meeting.”

We all know that first impressions drive everything.

So practise yours.

The better you serve, the better your chances of winning. Just ask Roger Federer…

Action Point

For your next communication – as in the one you’re just about to do – script and rehearse your First Serve. What will you say, so they’re engaged instantly? Get them then, and you’ve probably got them throughout…

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