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Communication Skills to Launch You to Great Heights

Posted on June 23, 2010 by Leslie Dickson

communication skills blog

Imagine this. You’ve been told you must give a presentation tomorrow. It may be you’ve known for a few weeks, but you’ve been busy. Or you’ve been avoiding the necessary preparation because giving presentations isn’t your thing. Or you’re just plain scared and just want it to go away. But now the zero hour is almost here. It’s time to stop worrying, stressing, and reaffirming just how much you hate speaking before groups.

Mastering the art of presenting—and it is an art—takes training, practice and experience. It’s also a vital component of any business career, and you owe it to yourself to improve your speaking skills whenever and however you can. However, your immediate concern isn’t what you’re going to say next week, or next month, or next year. It’s what you’re going to say tomorrow.

Maybe I can wing it, you think to yourself. Then reality hits and you realize winging it isn’t going to work, and you’re totally out of options. But don’t panic. Help is at hand.

Here are some tips that will make you a better speaker overnight.

Communication Skill #1 – Get Your Thoughts On Track.

If your inner voice is telling you that you are going to fail, don’t listen. Instead of picturing yourself as stumbling and unprepared, change that picture and change your thoughts. What would it be like to be a great speaker? How would it feel? What would you say and do? Then picture yourself in that role—calm and self-contained, comfortable in your own skin, able to think on your feet and handle anything unexpected that comes your way. Concentrate fully and expect to succeed. Disciplined mental focus is the ideal performance state. It is the starting point for the mastery of any skill, and presentation skills are no exception.

Communication Skill #2 – Serve Your Audience.

Now it’s time to turn your thoughts to your audience. Your presentation must be designed to meet the needs of the people listening to you. Who are they? How can you help them? Don’t try to be profound or impress them with your knowledge and expertise. Speak in the language they will understand, and keep it conversational, with short sentences and small words. Honor them by looking at them, speaking directly to them, and watching them for feedback. In turn, they will give you courtesy and respect.

Communication Skill #3 – Organize Your Material.

Decide on the three most important points you want to make. Surround those points with evidence: facts, data, statistics. Introduce some good examples and stories that add a personal touch. If you must incorporate slides, decide where to put them and get them in order. Create a brief introduction that tells the audience why you’re giving them this information and what’s in it for them. Add a short summary at the end, give them an action step or two . . . and you’re home free.

Communication Skill #4 – Put Life In Your Delivery.

In describing a speaker, someone once said, “His voice was so monotonous that if it were measured on an EKG, he would be pronounced dead.” Put life into your voice. Vary the pitch and volume for a livelier sound. Emphasize key words and speak at a moderate pace, neither too fast nor too slow. Keep your body loose and your gestures free and easy. If you can include these qualities in your presentation, it will make it easier for your audience to connect with you and hear what you have to say.

Speaking is a lot like golf: You can spend hours improving your game, but sometimes a minor adjustment to your swing can make everything fall into place. By focusing on any one of the above suggestions, your overall technique will improve. If you incorporate them all, tomorrow’s presentation will be a winner.

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