7 Verbal Communication Tips. Part Three of Effective Communication Skills
Communication – A Skill of Two Halves
The first half of the ‘production’ side of communication skills is speaking. Most of us do it, some do it too much, some could say more… but really effective speakers are hard to find. A good speaker will grab your attention, ignite your interest in a topic and influence how you think about it. Someone with effective speaking skills gets their message across with the minimum amount of fluff and the audience remembers what they say.
Smoother communication experiences create more opportunities with the minimum amount of misunderstandings. Developing your speaking skills will benefit almost every area of your life. Hone your speaking skills using the following tips to start your journey on the road to becoming a truly great speaker.
1 Record Yourself Speaking
Cringe-worthy as most of us find it, listening to a recording of your own speech is a clever way of identifying any bad habits you’ve picked up. Common mistakes might be repeating words or phrases, “however”, “obviously” or “as a result of” are frequent offenders. Also, look out for overused words or phrases which may grate on your audience – “like” or “you know what I mean?” Listen to the speed and tone of your delivery. Are you speaking too quickly or is the pace too slow?
Listen to yourself speaking and note down any annoying habits you pick up on, then you can take steps to eliminate them!
2 Slow Down Your Speaking
Unless you’re naturally as cool as a cucumber, the chances are you speak too fast when you’re delivering to an audience. Nerves, combined with your own eagerness to get a message across, make for fast talking. Listeners find it hard to follow speech when it’s too fast and may miss vital information. Slow down, breathe deeply and don’t be afraid to pause. A well-placed pause can increase an audience’s anticipation, add drama, encourage interaction and enable you to collect your thoughts and focus on your speech outline.
3 Match Your Audience
Learn about your audience and, if necessary, adjust your voice, tone and language to suit them. Make sure everything you’re talking about is relevant to your audience. Keep watching people to gauge their reactions and adjust your delivery to suit.
4 Use An Outline – Not a Script
Reading a speech verbatim is the easiest way to switch an audience off. Reading prepared text means you’re not responsive to your audience’s reactions and you’re not connecting with them on a personal level.
Make a speech outline with bullet points or a mind map of the main content to make sure you don’t go completely off-topic. But be prepared to digress a little, dependent on audience reaction and interaction, to aid the natural flow of your delivery.
5 Get Personal
Audience’s react and engage with a speaker before they react to what that speaker is saying. Be yourself when you’re speaking. If you feel comfortable doing so, inject a little humour into your speech. Another effective tool to engage your audience is to use a personal anecdote to illustrate a point – tell a story about something that’s happened to you around the topic. This will help your audience empathise with you and understand your viewpoint.
6 Grab Attention – Close Memorably
Experiment with different ways of starting your speech. Many speakers start by introducing themselves and then link to the topic by saying something like, “Today we are going to talk about X”. That’s fair enough, but it’s not going to drag a tired, after-lunch audience’s attention into the room with any sort of a bang! Why not start by stating a lesser-known statistic or quotation? Why not start by brainstorming your audience for their opinion of a topic?
Similarly, think about how you close your speech. You need to summarise and then make a closing statement that will be remembered.
7 Embrace Your Nerves
There aren’t many people who don’t feel some degree of nerves before speaking in public. Your nerves are created by stress hormones in your blood. These keep you alert and will help you deliver the best speech possible. If your nerves really trouble you, practice some deep breathing and relaxation before the event. Look on each speech you deliver as an opportunity to hone, practice and develop your speaking skills. Before long you’ll be looking forward to speaking and enjoying the positive feedback from your audience.
Part Four of Effective Listening Skills will focus on improving your writing skills.
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