Speaking in front of a crowd is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. In fact, even talking to someone face-to-face can be nerve-wracking for some people. Communicative skills are important for everyone to develop. No matter your age or career, communication can be a powerful tool in getting your message across.
No one knows this better than business leaders. They have to be effective communicators and lead their teams, motivating them and keeping them informed of important decisions. But is there hope for the rest of us who still battle with communicating effectively? The good news is that there is and with a few helpful hints, you too, can be a great communicator in no time.
In this book summary readers will discover:
- What to do when giving a presentation
- The power of your voice
- The importance of body language
- Don’t avoid difficult conversations
Key lesson one: What to do when giving a presentation
When giving a presentation, there’s nothing worse than spending hours preparing only to stand up there and look down to see bored faces in the audience. You can’t help but be disappointed knowing that you put your all into it and while that is understandable, what you should be doing is trying to figure where you went wrong.
The one thing that most people don’t think about is the listener’s interest. They automatically assume that the audience is interested in what they are presenting. The simple truth is, they won’t be interested unless they know that the information will benefit them in some way. Therefore, it is your job as the presenter to get them interested in what you are saying. However, there is a fine balance when doing so. Bombarding your audience with too much information and excessively selling your ideas could also bore them as they will feel like it’s like every other sales pitch. So, to keep the audience interested, you have to focus on keeping the information you are giving them relevant to how it will benefit them without being overbearing. For example, if your presentation is about how to improve the company’s performance, instead of excessively talking about how to improve the company allow your presentation to show how your ideas will make employee’s days more productive.
You can also use engaging stories to stir the emotions of your audience. Studies have shown that decision-making occurs on the right side of the brain which is the side associated with processing emotions. Thus, if you want your presentation to influence others, it is best to tell them a story that appeals to their emotions. Just think about all the content that people peruse on the internet. Your presentation essentially needs to compete with that content to be interesting and engaging. This means that you should focus on how you deliver your presentation just as much as what it contains. Put yourself in the audience’s shoes. Ask yourself what can you do to make your presentation engaging? Compared to all the other information online, what will make your information stand out?
Once you have your content finalised, you should refine your presentation to fit a three-point talk. This is done to ensure that your audience knows where you are heading with your presentation. Research has shown that it takes just seven seconds for someone to decide whether they are interested in what you are saying or not. So, have to make those seven seconds count. Don’t waste them on pleasantries or the infamous housekeeping points before you begin. This is an immediate sign that your presentation is going to be ordinary and boring. Instead, you can choose other effective openers like beginning with an attention-grabbing statistic or an interesting story or anecdote – even starting with the word ‘you’. When you have their attention, you can then add the pleasantries before delving into your carefully organized presentation.
The three points your talk should follow is to ensure that your presentation flows and has clarity. The first point should explain the current situation and the problems faced. The second point should refer to what targets should be met and what methods need to be followed to get to a better place. Lastly, tell your audience how long it will take to achieve these goals and the next steps that need to be taken.
By following these pointers, you can ensure that your presentation is relevant, engaging and holds the attention of the audience throughout.
Key lesson two: The power of your voice
One should never underestimate the power of their voice. It is the most powerful tool you can have during a presentation. No one wants to listen to a monotonous voice – it will practically lull them to sleep! One should always aim to fluctuate both the volume of their voice and the speed of their deliveries. This keeps the audience awake and paying attention.
Having a smile on your face also helps to put a bit of positivity in your voice which people react well to. This can be particularly handy when you are giving an audio or video presentation. Your voice will be the one thing that will keep listeners engaged. Clarity is also something listeners appreciate – both in content and voice. It lets them know the goals of your presentation and how you will proceed.
These are points that are also important when communicating via email. As much as the person reading the email can’t hear your voice does not mean that they cannot judge your tone. You should aim to keep emails concise. You should clearly state the intent of the email and always be careful of the I ratio. The I ratio refers to how many times you use the word I in an email. As a rule, for every I used, there should be ten you’s. If you use the word I too often, the email comes off as selfish and inconsiderate.
Thus, you should always remember that your voice can be used in many ways and learning to use it properly will hone your communicative skills.
Key lesson three: The importance of body language
There is no denying that a person’s appearance makes an impression, especially if they are standing in front of you and speaking. Thus, it is important to keep in mind what you look like to your audience whilst presenting. Your body language can sometimes be louder than your words, so you should not ignore it.
There are, however, some simple tips to help you if you have some nervous ticks that you need to control. If you experience shaky hands, try to make sure that you don’t hold pages or make use of a laser pointer. These objects will just emphasize it. You can include pointers or highlights in your presentation that bring things to the attention of the audience instead of a pointer. If you prefer using pages for reference, ensure that they are clearly numbered so you can find the next one easily and try not to read too much from them. They are a reference, after all. If shaky legs are a problem, you can walk around while talking. This aids circulation and stops your legs from feeling shaky.
If you find yourself sweating from nervousness, always carry a handkerchief to wipe off a sweaty forehead. In addition, try not to take off your coat if you are wearing one. A visibly sweaty shirt will just let everyone know how nervous you are. Also, if you find that your voice trembles from nervousness, you need to practice your breathing beforehand. Breathing from your diaphragm will eliminate this problem.
Most importantly, if you falter a little bit, do not panic. Instead, use the moment to calmly take a drink of water, refer to your notes and carry on. If you keep your body language confident, no one will know you made a mistake.
Key lesson four: Don’t avoid difficult conversations
Presentations and speeches are one way to communicate, but the most common is when we talk to someone face to face. Sometimes, people have difficulty with one on one communication, especially if the topic is undesirable or the person is difficult to speak to.
The latter is actually a common problem. Some people talk at each other, which makes it quite difficult to get a message across. To avoid this problem, it is best to start the conversation by clearly stating what you want to talk about and what you hope the conversation will achieve. This does not leave room for any distractions or interruptions.
With a clear intention before the conversation, you can remain focused on what you want the discussion to achieve. You should also aim to separate the problem you wish to discuss from the person you are talking to. For example, if you have an employee who is always late for work, instead of being angry and focusing on him, focus on the problem instead and how it can be resolved. Communicating in this manner will allow you to get to the root of the problem. If any conversation turns tense or emotions run high, it is best to remain calm, positive and ask questions. This way, the person is more likely to calm down and also communicate in a similar manner. You can also use words and body language to show that you are listening and engaged in the conversation. These include nodding, smiling and saying things like ‘I see”.
The more you learn to handle difficult conversations like this the easier they will become.
The key takeaway from As We Speak is:
Communication is an important skill for leaders to have. You have to constantly work on your communicative skills in order to hone it and so that they can be used in different situations. Public speaking and presentations should not make you nervous if you have prepared. The things you say and how you say them is important in any setting. So always ensure that the way you communicate is on point.
How can I implement the lessons learned in As We Speak:
Practice! When it comes to building confidence when communicating with others, the more you practice, the easier it will become. If you have a major presentation coming up, try presenting to your friends or family members first. Their reactions will help you to see if changes are needed to keep your audience engaged. They will also be able to help you correct any nervous body language that you may exhibit.