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11 Secrets People Good At Communication Never Told You

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11 Secrets People Good At Communication Never Told You

Communication skills are the ‘secret sauce’ you need to get ahead at work and become a successful leader. Whether you are making a presentation for your co-workers, building a relationship or making a sale, robust communication skills are well worth the effort to develop.

1. They practice important communication before delivery.

Skilled communicators understand that a top notch delivery does not happen by accident. For example, the late Steve Jobs held rehearsals for his legendary Apple product launches.

When all the eyes of the public (or your boss!) are on you, take the time to practice. Visit the presentation location (e.g. the conference room, meeting room or other location) in advance so that you are familiar with the layout and equipment in the room.

2. They practice theatre for important communications.

The speed, tempo and style of your communication plays an important role. For example, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates releases mosquitoes when he gave a TED Talk on public health.

That move caught the attention of the group and helped them to focus on his presentation. Using visual aids, repeating key points and changing your volume to emphasize certain points are ways to use theatre to improve your communication.

3. They know when to use active listening skills.

Great communications understand that communication involves the speaker and the listener. That’s why they practice active listening skills, especially in conversation.

These skills involve maintaining eye contact and asking good questions about the person. For example, former U.S. President Bill Clinton is known as a great communication because he focuses on one person at a time.

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Tip: There are several ways you can improve your listening skills, start here: 7 Things Truly Amazing Listeners Do Differently.

4. They study great communicators.

The best communicators are lifelong learners. This includes watching speeches and presentations given at conferences such as TED and at political campaigns.

Many public speakers have studied Lincoln’s 19th century speeches (e.g. The Gettysburg Address) as an examples of brief and powerful communication. To begin this study yourself, consider reading books such as Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds by Carmine Gallo or Public Speaking for Success by Dale Carnegie.

Further Reading: 20 Most Inspiring TED Talks of All Time That You Should Not Miss.

5. They take courses to improve their communication skills.

Did you know that Warren Buffet, the legendary billionaire investor, considers communication skills highly valuable? He took the Dale Carnegie Course in his 20s and considers it one of his best investments.

In the ancient world, lawyers and statesman studied the art of public speaking for years in order to become successful. Take a page from their experience and invest time and money in order to reach this skill.

You can start by reading books, but the best way to improve is to practice and get feedback.

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6. They communicate using body language.

The words used by great communicators are important, yet they are only part of the communication picture. For example, resting your head on your hand while listening to someone else speak generally signals a lack of interest.

Psychology Today reports that pointing your finger to emphasize certain topics can be effective. Your hands, your smile and other aspects of your body can help you become a more effective communicator.

Tip: Read Better Body Language in 18 Steps to improve your skills in non-verbal communication.

7. They know when to use humor in communication.

Great communications are skilled at getting a laugh out of an audience. For example, noted African-American author and leader Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) used humor in his speaking.

This approach helped him work through the tension involved in public speaking. Likewise, Nellie McClung (1873-1951) used humor in her advocacy for women’s rights in Canada in the 20th century.

If you are seeking to make a challenging point, take time to learn how to use humor effectively.

Resource: Get started by studying the article, Top 10 Ways to Lead More Effectively with Humor.

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8. They know how to work with different audiences.

Every audience is different and top notch communicators understand how to customize their communication accordingly. If you are speaking to an audience of scientists and engineers, it makes sense to use a lot of technical examples and emphasize proof.

In contrast, communicating with young children requires a different approach. For the best results, take the time to study your audience before you communicate with them.

TED Talks by scientists are a great example of how complex topics can be communicated to the general public effectively.

9. They understand the importance of good timing.

Good communicators understand timing deeply. For example, a good sports coach knows when to deliver a rousing, inspirational speech to lift the spirits of the team.

The best communicators also know the value of responding quickly to a crisis. James Burke of Johnson & Johnson took charge of communicating the corporate response to the Tylenol crisis in the early 1980s. Sometimes, a swift response is the best response.

10. They know how to use their personality profile

Knowing yourself matters in effective leadership and communication. If you are a person who connects well with people, then it makes sense to focus on that strength.

However, if you are weak in managing details, consider following President Reagan’s examples and working with a strong team of researchers and speechwriters. In fact, Reagan may never have achieved praise as “The Great Communicator” without partnering with writer Peggy Noonan.

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Top communicators need not always write their own speeches if they bring other strengths to the table.

11. They know how to use different communication methods

Knowing the difference between a live speech, a TV interview and a written report are some of the distinctions that great communicators have mastered. For example, some communicators have specialized in the art of copywriting – selling ideas and products through words.

Copywriting expert Neville Medhora explains how to write an effective “cold email” and get in touch with potential customers and other important people.

Tip: Keep growing your communication skills in business by reading: 12 Tips for Better Business Writing.

Featured photo credit: Microphone / Goranmx via pixabay.com

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Bruce Harpham

Bruce Harpham is a Project Management Professional and Founder and CEO of Project Management Hacks.

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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