|Best practices in business communication tell us that the most frequent form of communication for managers should be (in this order):
It’s our listening and speaking skills that make or break our careers. Whether you are an aspiring leader or in a support role, developing your communication skills can impact your success.
Communication is about more than the words you use. Consider the following five points when planning a speech, presentation or meeting. These are things you should consider as you strive to improve your interactions with others:
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1. Know the Outcome. What is the goal of this speech, meeting or presentation? Start with the end goal in mind. Before you begin planning what you will say, consider what you want the outcome of your communication to be. How do you want your audience to feel at the end of your presentation (i.e., motivated, inspired, thoughtful, etc.) What actions do you want them to take? How will you move or motivate people?
2. Be a Confident Speaker. To gain the recognition or the support you desire, confidence is key. A confident speaker:
- Projects their voice appropriately
- Speaks slowly and deliberately
- Varies the pace, uses pauses and varies the volume
- Has a strong / interesting start and finish
- Maintains easy eye contact in blocks around the room
- Moves easily but does not pace
- Uses notes with authority and confidence when needed
- Uses PowerPoint well – as an inspirational backdrop, not as a script
- Involves the audience – asks the audience questions and is patient and respectful with them
- Always gives the impression of being in control and never apologizes to the audience if there are hiccups. Is not concerned when something goes wrong – pauses and fixes the problem – or when challenged.
3. It’s All About Your Audience. Great public speaking is always about the audience – what you want to do with them, how you want to make them feel, and what you want them to do differently as a result of your performance. Audiences need to be engaged, and the speaker needs to show awareness of them. Building relationships is part of the communication process and is key to success in conveying your message. That means having your audience actively listening, attributing meaning, debating in their heads or with the speaker, weighing the pros and cons, etc. When you deeply understand how your audience thinks and feels, and what is important to them, you can use that information to craft a message that will resonate with your listeners.
4. Consider Timing. There is a time and a place for everything. When you are aware of the events or emotional state of those you are communicating with, you can improve the timing of your message. Appropriate timing means you have taken the person/audience and occasion into consideration and know when and how to share your message.
5. Master the Art of Listening. The most adept communicators are experts at listening and reading between the lines. Mastering the art of listening isn’t easy. You will most likely feel tempted to share your own insights, opinions or assumptions while listening to someone. Avoid commentary or interjecting. Instead, ask open-ended, follow-up questions. This provides evidence that you are hearing and listening to the person. It shows your respect for the person speaking and the information they are sharing. Practicing good listening skills will help you gain the respect of those you encounter.
How do you improve your communication?
Self-help books are great tools to improve your understanding of the intricacies of communication, but there is nothing as powerful as practicing it. There are a number of ways to develop your skills, but we suggest:
- Study the masters: Watch speeches by Ronald Reagan, JFK, MLK and Barrack Obama.
- Watch inspirational speakers on TED.com.
- Attend a public speaking class. (We highly recommend our WISE #220 – Public Speaking Mastery – a shameless plug!)
- Practice, practice, practice!
The more you develop your skills, the better your communication will be. Isn’t your success worth it?
Source: WISE Academy,
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Jacques Brix is vice president and director of sales, West Coast, for Wines & Vines. This column is based on his personal experiences at winery tasting rooms and events.