“Man does not live by words alone, despite the fact that he sometimes has to eat them.” – Adlai Stevenson
Can you improve your communication style? Like any skill with education and practice you can. This investment in yourself can pay huge dividends in future earning potential.
The way you communicate with your customers, suppliers, managers, and colleagues creates a reputation that either enhances your position in your industry or hinders it. The best speakers in business and entertainment develop a presentation that they use every time they speak. Over the months and years, they improve on the foundation they originally created and their delivery becomes effortless and engaging.
In an effort to improve your communication style I suggest following several steps:
Step 1 – Consider Your Audience
Before you write a single word or mentally prepare an outline it is essential that you take the time to consider who you will be speaking to. It is valuable to consider your audience’s age, sex, background, education, experience, and current position on the subject you will speak to them about. Your presentation may contain much of the same information but will be delivered very differently when speaking to entry-level people than when speaking to executives.
Step 2 – Establish Outcomes
Before you give a presentation or make sales call you should have clearly defined outcomes in mind.
Recently I was making collaborative sales calls with a manufacturer and our outcome was to educate my customers about the new features and benefits of an extend life option.
We had many conversations over two days of sales work and discussed many specific concerns my customers had but at the end of each conversation, we successfully communicated the desired outcome.
Step 3 – Prepare an Outline
Depending on the nature of the communication you may draft a written outline or a mental outline.
- A written outline is best for presentations for a group. This is not a word for word manuscript that is read but rather just brief sentences that will trigger your memory and allow you to speak extemporaneously.
- A mental outline is best for conversations with individuals. By having the key thoughts clearly in mind you ensure that you communicate effectively while leaving yourself the freedom to have a real conversation.
Step 4 – Focus on Being Natural
Your delivery should be natural despite any nervousness. The best way to be natural is to practice, practice, practice. The better you know your audience, outcomes, and material the more natural your delivery will be.
When someone compliments you on a presentation you gave with something like “I felt like you were speaking directly to me” or “it sounded like you were just having a regular conversation with us” then you know you are being natural.
Step 5 – Plan to Listen
This is obvious advice when having a discussion with an individual. The rule is 40% speaking and 60% listening in this situation.
How do you listen to your audience when giving a presentation to a larger group?
This is where non-verbal cues become very important. When you can hear a pin drop and even the children are paying attention you have your audience’s full attention. On the other hand, if your audience is yawning and shuffling in their chairs you need to listen to that feedback and make a change.
Step 6 – Reflect and Adjust
Video recordings of your presentation are best, audio recordings are helpful if a video is not available. Being able to watch yourself deliver a presentation is often a real eye opener and can help you make rapid progress.
Feedback from your audience is also tremendously valuable in assessing the quality of your delivery. At the very least reflecting and making mental notes of the reactions you are getting from the audience will help you improve.
It is important to deliver the same outline many times to give yourself the opportunity to make needed adjustments to your presentation. In this way you will hone your communication skills and that will make you communicate more successfully.
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