What is communication? The dictionary definition is usually something like: “The exchange of thoughts, messages, or information, as by speech, signals, writing, or behavior”, but it could also be characterized as “Something most of us could be a lot better at doing”.
Effective communication is essential to business success. Whether it’s writing a letter to introduce yourself to a prospect or briefing your sales team, you need to communicate clearly to get your points across and motivate others.
For most of us there is some room for improvement in our communication skills. Here are some pointers that can help in the different areas we might be called upon to use in business.
Speaking without fear
It’s interesting how most of us dread speaking in front of an audience and yet manage to speak with one or two people very easily. The secret to overcoming this reluctance is to be prepared – work out in advance what you want to say and rehearse it until it sounds natural to you.
Always keep your audience in mind. They not only listen to what you say but how you say it, and your tone of voice and body language can be telling quite a different story to your words. There’s a lot more to oral communication than just words. Practice speaking clearly and let your emotions enter into what you’re saying. Emphasize important points with gestures and vocal inflections. This keeps your speech from becoming a dull monologue in which the highlights are buried.
Think about what you’re going to say before you say it. If you have an important meeting coming up then be sure you’re up to speed on the topic being discussed. This will give you confidence as well as making what you say more interesting.
Avoid jargon and using complicated words or sentence structures to impress others. Just speak naturally and don’t rush what you say. Always maintain eye contact with your audience – regardless of whether it’s one person or an auditorium full of people. You can learn a lot about how you speak by talking to yourself in front of a mirror. It’s the fastest way to find out whether you’re the kind of person you’d like to have a conversation with.
Get it right when writing
Writing is a lot like speaking. The purpose is the same – to communicate a message to other people. Although it’s not done face-to-face many of the same principles apply. You still need to organize your thoughts and put them down in such a way that readers can understand what you’re telling them.
Every piece of written communication deserves the same degree of consideration whether it’s an email, a brief note or a whole volume. Write to your audience in terms they’ll understand, and don’t use terminology that might confuse them.
Everyone seems to be time poor these days so get to the point as quickly as possible. You can outline the points you want to get across at the beginning of the communication, and then follow up with supporting facts and details.
One all too frequent aspect of modern communications is the number of errors in spelling they contain. Since most of what you write is done on a word processor, learn how to use the spell check function and use it on everything you write. But even then, be aware that it won’t pick up everything, so you should still review your text carefully one more time after the spell check.
Just as with your oral presentations, avoid using jargon and complicated words or sentence structures. Write naturally and without pretension. Business communications are especially dependent on clarity of the message rather than the style it is couched in.
Copyright Bullseye Business Solutions. Adapted from an article originally published in Grow Your Business newsletter May issue 2004.
Article courtesy of RAN ONE: http://www.ranone.com/features/news.asp?ID=4323