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.
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.
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.
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.
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