Good communication skills are a key element of business today. You need to engage well with your colleagues, communicate well with your team, listen to your customers and stakeholders to get your message across – whether proposals, plans, budgets, recovery actions, self-defence or purely dissemination of information. If you have good communication skills then you are able to influence people effectively, motivate them towards their goals and inspire the confidence that you can achieve them.
Unfortunately, while we might be very good at sending a message we are less good at ensuring that the recipient receives and understands the message in the way we intended. It is also very easy to assume that just because people are talking, that they are all communicating well too.
A manager’s listening skills are essential to team building, motivation, creating enthusiasm and mutual respect. It is very easy for a manager to assume that they know everything, and that everyone understands what they mean, when they may not.
In these days of remote working and ecollaboration, you may be reliant on technical tools for part of your communications, and not be able to get the richness of being regularly face-to-face with your stakeholders or project team. Additionally, few people use all the available non-technical techniques available, like storytelling. More IT tools are not always the answer.
Tips for good communication
- Think about your audience. What do they need to know? For example, if you are talking to busy executives, they probably just want a summary, with the opportunity to ask relevant (to them) questions afterwards. Think about the purpose of your communication. Are you looking to inform, to persuade them to do something specific or to inspire them? Construct your communications so this is clear.
- Use stories. To make any communication memorable, you need to engage the emotions of your audience. The most effective way to do this is through storytelling. This could be examples of customers using your products, but told through a narrative story including what their problem was and what they said to you during and after.
- Listen more. Always remember that good communication is two-way and interactive if it is to be effective. Great listening skills will enable you to know what is happening outside of your organisation, within your own business and within your own team. Listening skills are essential to team building, motivation, creating enthusiasm and mutual respect. Through good listening skills, you acquire information, enabling you to identify and clarify issues, make decisions, resolve conflict and be creative. This will make you a more effective communicator, as you will know the context of your communications.
- Spend some time preparing. Do not think you can always just ‘wing-it’! This is disrespectful to your audience and makes you look unprofessional. Nothing is worse than sitting through an over-long, ill-prepared presentation. Nothing is more positively memorable than a well-prepared and succinct presentation. This means choosing just the content your audience will need, structuring it clearly and checking the spelling and grammar. A little extra time spent preparing and practicing your presentation will make all the difference.
- Avoid jargon. All groups learn to use short cuts in communication with their peers. While this may appear to save time, it gets in the way of communicating with every other group. Almost all experts in every field have their own terms to describe what they do as a short cut to communication within their own expert group. Unfortunately, they often assume everyone else understands these terms, which they rarely do. No one will own up to it of course for fear of sounding stupid. If you want someone to understand you, use their words, not yours. Of course, if you use storytelling, this may not be so much of a problem!
If you’d like to improve your presentation skills, I’m running a workshop on March 9th at Green Park in Reading. For more details – see the side bar. Places are limited.