Great Communication Skills – the Mark of Successful People!

Management is the process of getting things done through the efforts of other people utilizing available resources.

Leadership is the process whereby a person can obtain the support and actions of others to achieve a common goal; people follow leaders based in part on the belief that leaders can and will pave the way regardless of obstacles.

In both cases, successful managers AND leaders posses strong and effective communication skills.

What are some of the common characteristics of great communicators?

1. They are really good listeners. Not only to hear and understand but to also demonstrate sincere interest in what they are hearing and who they are hearing from. Being a good listener is not always easy – distractions abound both externally and within your mind. When you are listening, be careful you are not formulating your response  in your mind rather than listening. Strive for full understanding, and demonstrate that by asking questions. Don’t show signs of impatience; there is a polite friendly eye contactway to get someone who is stuck on a tangent back on target: “I think we have wandered off the reservation – let’s get back on track and focus on what you were saying.”

2. They maintain strong and frequent eye contact. This goes hand in hand with focusing on the person or persons you are listening to. To not do so is to tell the speaker “what you are saying isn’t really important to me”! Not exactly a trust-building characteristic! Your eye contact needs to be “friendly” vs “threatening”; no glaring and certainly not continual….the operational phrase is frequent friendly eye contact. The two photos show the difference between “friendly” and angry eye contact“threatening” eye contact! Make sure yours is of the friendly variety!

3. They develop a “delivery style” that is energetic, lively and above all articulate. If you are not all three of these – get started on achieving them. Read out loud in front of a mirror. Ask others if you are a mumbler or otherwise not as clear as the network newscaster on the evening news. If you constantly insert “um” and/or “ah” into conversation – you really need to work on that. Have someone you trust listen to you and snap their fingers when you make those sounds to alert you to how often you do so – you may not be aware of the extent of this impediment. When you feel one coming on…just pause for a moment and then continue. Most people that say “um” and “ah” are buying time to think of the next word… so just pause for a fraction of a second while that next word comes into mental focus. Eliminating these from your speech is critical to being a great communicator.

As for the energetic and lively aspects, great communicators exhibit body language that portrays confidence, enthuasism and a high energy level. They show a sense of humor, they smile, and they vary their timing for emphasis where emphasis is called for.

We all can be better commincators… but like most things …it requires focus and work. Good luck!

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Not Too Keen on Making a Speech?

Making a speech is one of the more intimidating and frightening aspects of many jobs and careers. Popular thought is that people fear it more than snakes, spiders, heights, etc.

public-speakingThe library shelves are loaded with books to guide you through the process, and the experts stress that the only way to overcome the fear is to “jump in the water”…make as many presentations as you can in order to get used to the rhythm of doing so and to reach a certain comfort level.

We recently came across a wonderful book by Chris Matthews – “Life’s A Campaign – What Politics Has Taught Me About Friendship, Rivalry, Reputation, and Success” – published by Random House, that has a great chapter on speech-making (Chapter 23 – Speak Up!).

 

Chris provides six points to follow for a successful speech:

#1 – The Icebreaker –  a brief comment or observation to start things off. Something like “Good afternoon… and welcome to Washington, DC – your nation’s capital – where parades and protests can snarl traffic just as well as a good snow storm!” …or…“Good afternoon….I traveled here from Washington, DC – 68.3 square miles surrounded by reality!” This opening comment is also to get any cobwebs out of your voice… to be sure your voice is projecting and that the PA system (if you are using one) works properly.

#2 – The Tease – tell ‘em what you are gonna tell them. Something like “After my remarks, you WILL be able to <understand why global warming is not good>”,  or whatever. You want the audience to know where you are coming from and where your remarks are headed. You don’t want anyone in your audience wondering what your point is or what’s the goal of your presentation.

#3 – Anecdote time – these are not jokes, but rather short stories about people, circumstances or perhaps yourself and why you are standing in front of your audience. Of course, they must fit into the context of your remarks as illustrative examples of the points you wish to make.

#4 – Download this is where you “tell ‘em” why you are talking to them…what are the points you want to make, the action you want the audience to take… etc. It is usually helpful to number the points you are making and start off by so stating…”I am going to give you four good reasons to vote for me”…or whatever. Above all, avoid wandering around the verbal landscape!

#5 – Relief – communicate that the heavy lifting is over…summarize the points you made and the logic you used to glue it all together.

#6 – Send-off – you made this speech or presentation for a reason. Re-state it here with whatever call to action is appropriate. Often speakers end with a simple, “Thank you.” Wrong!! No need to thank them for listening. Rather, thank them for the opportunity you had to teach them something, help them better understand an issue, ask them to take a course of action, etc.

Chris notes that most speeches should be between ten and twenty minutes long…notwithstanding the annual State of the Union addresses that seems to go on forever!

Success in almost every line of work requires strong and clear verbal communications, and making presentations and giving speeches is a critical part of that for many a position. Rather than shirk away from them – be determined to become good at them!

For further preparation, read some of the great speeches available online: Lincoln’s Second Inaugural, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a Dream”, etc. and analyze what makes them great speeches. A simple Google search will bring them up for your review.

For further information about making an effective and non-anxiety producing speech go to:

http://pegasus.cc.ucf.edu/~rbrokaw/speech_anxiety.html

Good luck and may great speeches be in your future!