Bert Decker: You’ve Got to Be Believed to Be Heard

Post written by Chris Spagnuolo. Follow Chris on Twitter 2 comments

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I’ve never thought of myself as a natural speaker, but a few months ago, I had the opportunity to participate in an incredible coaching experiencing with some folks from Decker Communications in a class called Communicating to Influence. It really changed the way I see myself as a communicator now. After the class, I was fortunate enough to begin corresponding with Bert Decker. Bert was gracious enough to send me a copy of his newly updated book You’ve Got to Be Believed to Be Heard. Based on my coaching experience, I couldn’t wait to read this book. I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, the book is in my Ten Best Books of 2008 list alongside other great authors like Seth Godin, Guy Kawasaki, Garr Reynolds, Nancy Duarte, and Malcolm Gladwell. Bert Decker definitely has earned his spot amongst these other luminaries.

The book starts off with a fabulous discussion of the difference between the Old Communicators and the New Communicators. It is with great insight that Bert has defined the New Communicators as those people who are successful in not only communicating information but in connecting with their listeners. Connecting on emotional levels. The New Communicators don’t just provide information, through these emotional connections, they influence and motivate others to action. Here’s a quick listing from Bert’s book of some of the Old Communicators and the New Communicators:

The Old Communicators

  • Mark McGwire (Former Major League Baseball player)
  • Bill Walsh (Former San Francisco ’49ers coach and football commentator)
  • Michael Chertoff (Former Secretary of Homeland Security)
  • Lee Raymond (Former CEO of Exxon/Mobil)
  • Jeanine Pirro (Former candidate for Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat from New York State…”Do you have page 10?”)

The New Communicators

  • Bono (U2)
  • Steve Jobs (Apple)
  • Oprah Winfrey (The Oprah)
  • Steve Irwin (The Crocodile Hunter)
  • Bill Clinton (You really don’t need me to tell you he is do you?)
  • John Madden (Football commentator)

Wow, a lot of formers in the Old Communicators list. And I’m guessing you didn’t remember who most of them are. And a lot of easily recognizable people in that second list. My guess is, I didn’t need to tell you who they were. There’s a reason for that. They all connect with people on that deeper, emotional level. You “know” them. And it’s because they reach what Bert calls “The First Brain”.

So what is the First Brain and how do you reach it? That’s what the rest of this book is about. In Bert’s words:

“The First Brain is the nonreasoning, nonrational part of our brain. Simply put, it is the seat of human emotion…The reason the First Brain is so important to effective communication is precisely because it is the seat of emotion and emotional response…If you want to get your message across, you must persuade your listener’s First Brain that you are trustworthy, that your are likeable, that you represent warmth, comfort, and safety.”

Sounds like a large order to reach the First Brain. But Bert does an amazing job walking you through the two primary factors and the six skills necessary to persuade you’re listener’s First Brain. The two factors: The Eye Factor and the Energy Factor. The Eye Factor is very powerful as is the visual sense. Bert informs us that:

“The nerve pathways of the eye to the brain are twenty-five times larger than those from the ear to the brain. The eye is the only sensory organ that contains brain cells. Memory experts invariably emphasize techniques that link the information you want to remember to a visual image.”

But wait, I thought this book was about speaking? It is. And non-verbal, visual skills are part of speaking. Bert goes into great depth on the visual impact that you have as a speaker. He dives into skills exercises and practical advice on how to improve and refine your eye communication, your posture and movement, your dress and appearance, your gestures, and The Smile to help you become effective at persuading your listener’s First Brain.

The second factor, the Energy Factor, is equally as important. I love that when Bert describes the best communicators in the world, he says that they are not teachers, not actors, not politicians or news anchors. They are two-year olds! They convey their messages with uninhibited energy. And believe me it’s true. I have a two-year old son and there is no mistaking what he wants you to do. He has a ton of energy when he communicates. Bert tells us we can learn a lot from these two-year olds and their energy. And that’s the trick, it’s all about unlocking our energy. Bert provides some great practical advice and exercises on how to improve the energy skills of your powerful voice and vocal variety as well as your use of words and nonwords. Nonwords? Right. Learn how to effectively use the pause! On a personal note, I have struggled all my life with fact that I have a very soft voice. After taking the Decker training and practicing the exercises in this book, I’m finding it much easier to speak with energy and be heard (thanks Bert).

The book concludes with a section on organizing your content to create a focused message. It is based around Bert’s proven Decker Grid System. This method of content organization is designed to drive your listeners to action. It’s a simple method, but one that I find to be extremely powerful in helping deliver targeted messages to the needs and wants of your audience. I’ve been using it for about three months now and I am amazed at the results.

Overall, Bert’s writing style is natural and casual. It’s almost as if you are sitting down talking with an old friend. There are lots of great first-hand stories and accounts in the book that really help you connect the information Bert is conveying with real-world examples. And, these stories help you get to “know” Bert a little better as well. The advice and exercises in the book are simple and easy to implement. The message is clear: You can be a New Communicator today!

About Bert Decker: Bert Decker is a national communications expert, best selling author and entrepreneur, founding the communications training company Decker Communications, Inc. He has been featured in the NY Times, Business Week, 20/20, as well as being the communications commentator for the NBC TODAY Show for the Presidential Debates.

  • Coach to Charles Schwab, U.S. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, former Mattel CEO’s John Ammerman and Jill Barrad, Olympians Bonnie Blair and Tom Dolan, SF 49er All-Pro Brent Jones, and dozens of other executives
  • Founder, Chairman and CEO of Decker Communications, Inc., a leader in communications training and executive coaching.
  • Consultant to Siemens, State Farm, Schwab, Met Life, and many others
  • Professional Speaker and best selling author of “You’ve Got to Be Believed To Be Heard” and “Speaking With Bold Assurance”
  • Co-producer of an Academy Award documentary
  • Entrepreneur, founder of four companies, Chairman of Bold Assurance Ministries, NBC TODAY Communications Expert commentator, Advisory Board Salvation Army
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  1. Dru Scott DECKER said,

    HI, CHRIS,
    Thanks for your insights.
    Of course I agree with your blog. And I have heard Bert speak of you with energy.

  2. Martha Roden said,


    Boy, that was an informative review. Not only did I learn a lot of useful information, but I got interested in buying the book. In addition, I learned a lot about you, including this … you’re a wonderful writer!


    P.S. I wonder if the “First Brain” is the “Reptile brain” or brain stem that we learned about in anatomy?

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