In a recent Deloitte study, 89% of executives consider “strengthening the leadership pipeline” an urgent issue. Organizations are continuously promoting people into manager and leadership roles. One of the ways to showcase you are leadership material is to increase your communication skills.
How to increase your communication skills
Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence.
Confident people own the space they inhabit. As such, raise awareness of what your body language says to an audience, as even the smallest shift in posture can change the way an audience perceives you.
When presenting, stand erect, but not rigid, in an open, physical neutral position. Imagine a nice long spine, with your head extending toward the clouds and your feet pressing into the earth. Lean slightly forward. This posture projects confidence and comfort and communicates that you are approachable, receptive, and friendly. It also allows your audience to focus on your message rather than physical distractions that might take the focus away from what you are saying.
Use the same posture when seated – your spine straight spine, but not stiff. Keep your hands above the table and modulate your gestures. Keep your feet firmly planted under the table to help limit extraneous movement that can make you appear unconfident.
We have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak.
Good listening is a great way to build rapport and learn about others. Ironically, when a person is a good listener, they are often perceived as a great conversationalist, even when the other person did most of the talking.
As highlighted in The Pin Drop Principle, “Listening is the number one construct that leads to success” in most areas of life according to Chris Bond, the president of the International Listening Association. To improve our listening, Bond offers the following: “First, you must be aware of the listening situation that you are in… the person to who you are in dialogue with may not be a good listener so you need to adjust your own listening behaviors accordingly… Distinguish which listening barriers you may have… observe verbal and nonverbal cues in the listening process… and continue to adapt and reframe messaging depending on how listening changes during the process.”
Good, steady eye contact helps facilitate the flow of communication between a speaker and his audience. It also signals an interest in others. A good rule of thumb is to hold eye contact with someone for approximately two to three seconds, or until you complete your thought, then move on to someone else. This will ensure that your eyes don’t wander and will help you better connect with your audience. Don’t scan the audience in large, general sweeps; instead, pick specific people and connect with them. When you connect with one person at a time, the rest of your listeners will feel like you are talking and connecting to them as well.
When someone speaks too fast, they are often perceived as nervous or rushed, or as if the message or material is not important or interesting enough to hold an audience’s attention. When a person’s speaking pace is too fast, the other qualities of the voice—such as inflection, pitch, and articulation—all tend to suffer as a result.
To address this, slow down. Honor your punctuation. For example, a period requires a full stop to complete an idea or thought. Then take a breath and continue your next sentence. Use silence for impact.
Intention and Objective
Every time you communicate, whether in a meeting, presentation or one-on-one conversation, you must have a specific objective in mind—something you need to accomplish—if you hope to impact and move your audience. Then you must select a strong and specific intention – a one-word verb (captivate, persuade, motivate, etc.) – to pursue that objective. Once activated, intention and objective will inform all aspects of how you deliver your message – body language, vocal tone, gestures, facial expressions, etc.
If you would like to learn how we can help improve the communication skills of your up and coming leaders, please contact us.