Communicating meaningfully with your people is the real name of the game. It’s not just getting attention, but getting through is what really matters. To achieve success when you communicate requires that you be aware of what others see and hear and how they respond to you, whether it be face-to-face, over the phone, during a sales call or presentation, conference call, meeting or via technology.
It’s not just what you say but how you say it that matters If you aren’t making a conscious effort to manage your tone of voice, the way you stand, and the words you use, you risk delivering your message ineffectively and leaving your listener with the wrong impression. The resulting misunderstanding will not help your cause.
You can learn how to communicate effectively no matter where you are. Even your technology-driven communication will improve if you first focus on improving the most important method first — face-to-face communication.
We’re not talking tailoring a perfect email or internalizing the shorthand texting alphabet. Eliminate the static that plagues your face-to-face communication and everything else you do will improve dramatically as well.
Here are some of techniques that should help you become a more effective communicator:
- Increase Your Awareness. We don’t know what we don’t know. We have this mystery of not knowing what others see and hear when we communicate: over the phone or face-to-face. If you don’t know how you and your message are perceived, you will never make improvements for greater results. Pay attention to your listener. Watch and listen for their reactions and responses. Learn how what you say affects people.
- Pause More Often! A mistake most of us make is saying more than our listeners want and need to hear. Slow down your speech! Deliberately introduce more PAUSES. What perception do you create when you hear a speaker speaking quickly? PAUSE Or when they clutter their sentences with non-words such as; um, uh, you know, like, but and so on. PAUSE If you want to show you can think on your feet and allow your listeners to understand your message, replace your non-words with a PAUSE. Less is more.
- Connect or Contact. Who are you talking to? Look and listen for the clues they get what you are saying. With eye connection you gain trust and connect with your listeners. If you talk you must listen more and really hear what the other person is saying. Without the meaningful connection, your listener will lose interest, question your message and have doubts about you.
- Confident Entrance. Do you walk into a room like you belong there? Within seven seconds others determine if you’re confident or uncertain. Your posture will communicate how you’re feeling without your saying a word. It’s the easiest way to immediately convey confidence, yet the quickest way to lose confidence if not done effectively. Stand straight! Recognize your listeners individually by connecting with their eyes. Look people in the eye. Recognize them individually with your face and smile.
- Use Technology Power Wisely. Face-to-face communication should not be a lost art. Ask yourself what communication medium to use to best influence action? Choose the most personal form of communication that allows for the most meaningful communication for the situation. Don’t rely on technology, especially with complex or deeply personal communications of importance.
- Gesture to Create a Positive Visual Impression. When your gestures and speech convey the same information, they’re easier to understand. Confident speakers use their gestures to add emphasis to their words. Avoid fidgeting with your rings, fingers, pen, etc. by expanding your arms from your sides, make the gesture consistent with your message and then bring your arms back to your sides.
- Speak to be Heard! Your voice is your greatest asset. Do you sound like you mean what you’re saying? The sound of your voice shapes the attitude of your listeners even more than the words you speak. If you want to be perceived as confident, use the 1 – 10 scale. When speaking to a group of 15 or more, you must be at a 7 – 8 on the volume scale. From here, you adjust your volume based on the group and room size. Don’t whisper or talk too low for whatever occasion. Adjust your volume for maximum effect.
- Use Fear as Your Motivator. Allow your fear of presenting to propel you forward. Channel your fear into your work. Doubt is good as it raises your awareness so you pay more attention and focus your mind on what is right before you. Fear is the greatest motivator you have. Realize that whatever you focus on becomes more real to you. You therefore can channel and use your capabilities better and do your best to help the people you can help the most.
- Speak Less and Listen More! Pay more attention to your audience. Listening reveals what’s important to your listeners. Talk directly to them and look them in the eyes when you do. You are the message. Stop talking to your visual aids; PowerPoint, notes, handouts, etc. Instead, allow your listeners to communicate directly to you so that you confirm that they understand your message.
- Make Discipline Your New Habit. You need to want it badly enough to begin today making face-to-face communication your priority. Practice doesn’t only make things perfect – practice makes things permanent. Even if all you can do is practice in real time, on the job, on the firing line, ask for constructive feedback on a specific behavior before and after your conversations and presentations.
Even tiny little changes and improvements in how you communicate can be crucial and extremely beneficial. That’s because, in most cases, the incremental changes people make can result in instantaneous and dramatic improvements in behavior, communication, performance, customer service, relationships, branding, and profits. They can see it right away and the outcomes of the changes they make are tangibly documented based on what happens.
If it works, do it again. If it doesn’t stop and do something better. That’s the essence of continuous improvement.
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Stacey Hanke is owner of 1st Impression Consulting, Inc. She is a sought after speaker, on the topic of Communication Skills. She is the co-author of Yes You Can! Everything You Need From A-Z To Influence Others To Take Action and Featured author of the book, Conversations On Success, on which she partnered with Chicken Soup for the Soul’s Jack Canfield and Fish Philosophy author John Christensen. Stacey has delivered over 500 presentations for business leaders in the financial industry to the healthcare industry to government and everyone in between. Her vast client list includes companies like Coca-Cola, Kohl’s, United States Army, Navy and Air Force, AT&T,( just added a few clients here) Leo Burnett and the FDA. Her articles regularly appear in national media publications like Smart Money, Chief Learning Officer, Business Week, Investor’s Business Daily and many more. She is also the 2009 Recipient of the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire Alumni Award, member of the National Speakers Association. Stacey was one of six speakers selected to present at the 2008 NSA Convention in the category “Top Six Under Forty” and has served as member of the small business panel for USA Today.