Communication Skills: How To Get Your Point Across
The way we speak is exactly how people judge us every day of our lives. Sadly, most people put more effort into text messaging protocol than they do into worrying about the way they communicate verbally with others. If that's you, don't feel bad. You are in the company of millions. Unlike them, however, you're about to find out some simple ways to vastly improve how others perceive you when you try to get your point across.
1. PLAN out important conversations or presentations.
Every important conversation or presentation must have a specific goal. You cannot just drone on about this or that and hope that your listener(s) somehow get the point or figure out what you are trying to say. Your goal must be to communicate the CENTRAL THEME or SUBJECT of your message as simply, directly, positively and powerfully as possible.
2. Know your LISTENERS.
If you have the benefit of knowing something about the people that you will be speaking to in advance, that is a huge advantage. This can help you decide to be casual, formal or mix the two methods of speaking to best get your point across. One thing is for certain: We now live in a society that respects brevity. Keep your speech or conversation as short as possible.
The best way to be brief is to make a list of all the points that you want to make about your subject. Go over the list and cut it down from what you want to say, to what absolutely needs to be said about your subject. Take each point that remains and write down a paragraph about each. Once completed, you have the gist of your speech. Less is always more.
3. Avoid the overuse of graphs and statistics.
As soon as anyone sees a graph or statistical chart pop up during a presentation (or someone starts throwing out a bunch of numbers at them during a conversation), they tend to shut down. Graphs, charts and statistics have their place and that place is on a print out, in an email or a file that your listeners can access later if they care to do so.
4. Be aware of your SPEAKING STYLE.
Do you speak clearly and at a moderate speed? If you speak too slowly or too fast, you have already lost your listeners. Be sure that your pronunciation is clear, your sentences are short, use simple words in place of college textbook or legal speak and do not try to sound like a motivational speaker at a real estate convention. Strive to achieve the perfect mix of sounding passionate, cohesive and clear, while remaining calm.
5. Do not allow yourself or others to be DISTRACTED.
Most meetings, conversations and even many presentations allow for give and take, questions and comments. Sharp people that disagree with you or have another agenda will always try to get you off point with complicated questions or provocative comments. You can keep your listeners engaged and on point by writing down (or having someone else write down) a brief note about complicated questions thrown at you. Explain that such questions can be better dealt with and more fully answered at another time. Provocative comments are another matter. Those require redirection.
Someone might say, "Don't you know that it's impossible to get that done within the confines of our present business plan (or model)?" This is an invitation to get way off topic and a challenge to everything you have or will say. You answer should be, "That's your opinion and an exception worth noting. I will show how that's not the case if you allow me to continue." Or, you can chose to address those kinds of comments in memos at another time. Whatever you do, never let anyone get you off topic or trash your presentation.
6. Never try to be a Comedian.
Leave comedy up to the experts. It's alright to inject a little humor into certain types of conversations or presentations, but it is never essential and should be reserved for the most casual of these. You don't want to be perceived as a person with no sense of humor, but it would not be any better for you to become thought of as a clown.
7. Avoid the use of boring, exaggerated or off-topic slides and displays.
If you're using Powerpoint or something like it, never leave a slide on the screen for more than thirty seconds unless it's essential. Make sure each one ends up being a visual reminder of exactly what you are saying to your audience while the slide is up. The same goes for board or other displays. These can easily be a distraction or annoyance to your listeners if not used properly. I highly recommend you watch many different types of presentations on varied subjects online before creating your own. Take notes and see what works and what does not. This will help you avoid off-topic or exaggerated graphic or photo choices.
8. Finish up with a KNOCK OUT PUNCH.
No matter what you say during your conversation or presentation, the thing that everyone is going to remember the most is how you end it. You need to save the best for last. Have a fact, statement or surprise that will blow everyone away.
9. Make your listeners feel the same way about your topic or subject as you do.
People will always judge how important a goal or topic is to you by how much effort you put into communicating it to them. If what you have to say seems unimportant to you, it will seem exactly the same way to them. Your words are your ambassadors to others. If used wisely and with much preparation, they will stand out in the minds of those who hear them long after you finish speaking.