Tips for Effective Communication and Public Speaking

Tips for Effective Communication and Public Speaking

In the realm of strategic leadership, good communication makes a big difference not only in the way you operate your business but in the way customers, clients, and employees perceive you.

As a business leader, public speaking may seem like a skill necessary for the job. Yet, not everyone has those skills, especially when just starting out.

How can you improve your public speaking skills? Consider these real-world tips on effective communication.


Expect to Be Nervous and Know That’s Okay

It’s a misconception that great communicators and highly skilled leaders are confident. Most people are nervous even if they have years of experience behind them. Nervousness makes you normal.

The key here is to make sure that your pounding heart and racing pulse does not limit you from getting your message across. One way to overcome some of those worries is to practice. When you practice what you plan to say, it becomes more natural and remembered. That means when you are in front of a group of people and worried, you still know what you’re supposed to say.

Listen to Feedback and Take It In

Feedback, good and bad, can provide you with insight into how well you are communicating and provide some strategies on how you can overcome the challenges you feel. For many people, feedback feels like a bad thing, as if you did something wrong.

However, when it comes to public speaking, being able to pick up on feedback at that moment can make a huge difference in the outcome of your event. For example, if you notice that the crowd is more formal, adjust the way you are speaking to a more professional manner. If they seem more at ease, it could work well to add in some jokes.

The key to this component of effective communication is not to create a canned, boring, basic speech and expect to be received well. You will lose the attention of anyone in the audience if you do not provide a more engaging speech that plays to your audience and their needs.

Use Your Personality

Effective communication requires understanding your audience, including knowing what they need to know and already understand. However, every person in the audience realizes you are an authentic person who has a unique personality. When you allow your personality to come through, you are interacting with that audience at a realistic level. They will feel better able to interact and take in what you have to offer.

Don’t be a talking head, a person that just reads what’s in front of them. Instead, let your personality shine. You may do that by smiling and making eye contact. Choose words and phrases natural to you. Don’t try to hide the feelings you have for a topic you are passionate about either. Allow people to see that you are a real person. Ultimately, that is going to help them to engage with you, trust you, and believe what you have to offer is valuable.

Make the Material Your Own

When delivering a speech or communicating a specific message to a group of people, make it your own. Start with understanding the topic and getting deeper into it. Form your own opinions and thoughts on it. Then, create a speech or statement in your own words. Doing this allows you to connect better with the material, and ultimately that’s going to create better communication through this process.

You can deliver facts and information – even if boring – in your own way. Look for ways to communicate your message that would resonate with you if you were sitting in the audience. Some public speakers do well with standing in front of a crowd and telling a story. Others do great with audiovisuals and interactions with the audience. No matter what material you create, if you can deliver that in a way that is meaningful and valuable to you, chances are very good people are going to pick up on your personality and want to engage with you.

Know Your Audience

Good public speakers know their audience. That means they have the ability to read their audience and react to them, as mentioned previously. Go one step further than that, though. How well do you know the people in your audience? Whether in an office setting or on a stage, you should know as much as possible about the people there.

You can start that process by gathering information about who they are and what roles they play in the company. You may also want to learn more about their background, such as what type of education and industry knowledge they have (or don’t have) that could impact what you talk about or how you talk about it.

Consider what type of information they will actually value, too. Talking to people about their job without any real insight into what they do isn’t going to allow you to communicate well. Instead, find a way to bond with them over your message. That could mean connecting with a few people before the event, getting their story or insight, and then applying that information to your speech. That takes some time to learn how to do well. Consider if you want to be talked down to by a leader within your company, or would you rather someone communicate a message in a way that is better fitting to your needs and interests?

Choose Language Carefully

Quite important today is using language that is inclusive. That doesn’t mean you cannot have an opinion or share information about demographics. What it does mean is that you should not say anything or imply anything that would purposefully hurt another person. Be inclusive in your language and statements.

You can do this in a range of ways. Societal norms are changing, so that means it is best to steer clear of any jargon that is confusing or otherwise not appropriate. For example, don’t use any type of gender-specific language. Don’t make all–encompassing comments because you will probably leave people out when you do.

Remember the goal of effective communication – that is to help other people to see what you are saying, learn from it, and apply it to their life, work, or day. You cannot do that if you create barriers with the language you use. 

Keep It to the Point

Have you ever attended a workshop or training seminar and sat in the audience wondering how you could look at your phone to check the time without anyone noticing? You will not learn much from a boring meeting, nor will your audience. The better option is to keep it to the point but meaningful.

That doesn’t mean you should limit what you talk about if there is valuable information to share. There are times when you have to go through detailed information and complicated data. It can be very boring to do that. Yet, when you keep it to the point and don’t overcomplicate or stretch it out, you will deliver a message that is better received by your audience.

Be sure you engagingly communicate that information, too. Make it clear, concise, and on topic. Don’t overfill your speech with unnecessary stories or try to tell too many jokes. Your audience wants information quickly and in a meaningful way, and then they want to move on with their day.

Tell Stories to Drive Home Important Data

Imagine a performer who wants to encourage people to donate to a good cause. No matter how worthy the cause is or how much the audience loves and admires that performer, a plea to spend money may not resonate until (and unless) that person is able to tell a story that communicates the point in a valuable way.

What if that performer told a story that touched the hearts of the group in the audience? What if they shared a meaningful reason behind why they support that group or charity? People would connect and contribute.

The same applies to even the dullest information you need to share. If you tell a story and break the ice, people are going to come through for you. You are bringing that information to life. Not only will they better engage with that information, but they are more likely to remember it down the road as well. 

Be Ready for Questions

Effective communication may imply that your audience will just “get” the information you need to provide them, and there are no questions to answer. That is not how it tends to happen. Instead, it is very common for people to ask questions, and you need to be ready for them. Most often, the questions you answer are going to be about information you have included in your speech, or they may be very outside of what you could have expected.

Public speaking is about connecting. If you are able to connect with someone enough that they have really taken in this information and applied it so much so that they have questions, then you’ve already done well.

To be successful, be ready for those questions. Research common questions related to the topic. Talk to others before the meeting to find out what questions they already have. If you do not know the answer, be honest about that and be sure to offer a way for the listener to find out. You may experience some instances when you feel out of place, but your confidence will come through if you have spent the time necessary to prepare. 

Prepare and Make Sure It Seems Like You Prepared

You are asking people to spend their limited time listening to you speak. That’s valuable to them. Make sure they know that you value that time commitment. You can thank them for being there and tell them, especially that you appreciate it. That’s not enough, though.

A very common mistake for some public speakers is to show up to a meeting and just talk. They didn’t really learn about their audience. They know the topic, but they don’t have a formal outline planned for the information, and they lack any real engagement opportunities. If you do not prepare for that speaking event and truly take notes, plan for the topics, and review potential questions, it will be obvious. No one wants to listen to a person that is just filling their heads with basic information or any real value.

Instead, prepare. Create an outline. Be sure your plan follows a step-by-step process. Make sure that, when you reach the end of your speech, you can tie it back to something from the beginning. Doing this shows you planned to say what you did, and that indicates you care about the time your audience has invested in the process.

Use Body Language Wisely

Take some time to study body language. The way you use your hands and arms, fidget with your hair, or say “um” throughout your speech provides a very clear and often very revealing statement to your audience. If someone is standing in front of a group trying to convince them to follow a new set of rules, and they have their arms folded, chin up, and are not looking at the group members, who is going to trust them?

Body language can convey to your audience what they can and cannot do. It can also provide them with a way to connect with you. If you are using your hands to gesture, that helps to show you are engaged, and the information you are providing is truly valuable. Be open, use eye contact, and try to engage fully and authentically with your audience.

Public speaking can be a challenge as not everyone has the innate skills to pull it off. Yet, most people can learn effective communication through practice and simply planning to provide a quality product to the audience. Listen, communicate, and care about the people in the audience. 

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