5 Tips to Hone Communication Skills in a Global Marketplace
In today’s global marketplace, leaders must possess strong communication skills. The sound of someone’s voice matters twice as much as the content of his or her message according to research recently reported in the Wall Street Journal. Studies have shown that a person’s speech patterns, including the quality of his or her voice, strongly influences how he or she is perceived. What many don’t realize is that you can change the way you sound. For those who speak too quickly or in a soft voice, the message can be lost.
Every professional who has ever had to sit through a business meeting or presentation can tell you that all public speakers are not created equal. Some people seem to exude a natural confidence and effortlessly command the attention of everyone in the room, while others consistently struggle to maintain the focus of the crowd. Public speaking skills don’t come naturally to most people, but, like any other skill, learning to be a dynamic, engaging speaker can be achieved with the right training and practice. Gilbert Amelio, president and CEO of National Semiconductor Corporation, said, “Developing excellent communication skills is absolutely essential to effective leadership. If a leader is unable to get a message across clearly and motivate others to act on it, then having a message doesn’t even matter.”
There are steps you can take to improve your professional speaking skills and deliver every message like a leader. You will be able to establish credibility as soon as you begin to speak. You will be able to persuade your audience with powerful authority and clarity.
- Power up your voice: Speaking in a strong voice conveys confidence, even when you don’t feel it. Learning to project from the diaphragm will create a strong, confident, and dynamic voice that you can depend on. Take a breath, and feel the control.
- Finish your words: People are frequently in such a hurry when speaking, that they forget to finish their words. If words are not clearly pronounced, the message can be misinterpreted. Think about the many words in English that differ in just the last sound: bad/bat; can/cat; sad/sat. If your listeners have to replay what you just said, they will miss out on what you are currently saying. Prevent miscommunication in business by being clear and articulate.
- Master the Strategic Pause: Simply slowing down your rate of speech will add impact to your message and will significantly improve your speech quality. It shows you are in control of what you are saying, and it gives the listener time to process what is being said.
- Communicate with eloquence: Become aware of your use of “filler words” such as “um,” “uh,” “like,” “you know,” and “basically.” Any word used more than two times within two minutes is considered excessive. Record yourself and observe your pattern. Are you starting every sentence with “uh” or are you inserting the filler word when you are thinking of what to say next? Become aware of your pattern, begin to anticipate when you will use the word, and instead, insert a pause.
- It is what you don’t say that counts! Be aware of the importance of your non-verbal communication. Did you smile when you said, “Hello”? What about your handshake? Was it a solid “let’s do business” kind of handshake? And what about your eyes? Remember that consistent eye contact will show sincerity and build trust. There is a reason we say, “Actions speak louder than words.” Nonverbal communication accounts for 55 percent of our message, with the tone adding another 38 percent, according to Albert Mehrebian. Your nonverbal communication will help to punctuate your spoken message.
Take charge of your speech. Learning strong communication skills will make the difference in your career. By practicing the five tips above you can learn to transform your communication skills into those of a dynamic leader.
Jayne Latz (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an expert in communication and is CEO of Corporate Speech Solutions, LLC. She has worked as a speech trainer, coach, and professional speaker, and has co-authored two books: “Talking Business: A Guide to Professional Communication” and “Talking Business: When English Is Your Second Language.” Follow her @JayneCSS.