1. Know Your Audience
Whenever you communicate, and in whatever context, it’s your job to capture your audience’s attention and somehow influence their thinking or behaviour. Before thinking about what you want to say, begin by asking yourself: who am I speaking to and what is on their minds right now? By understanding your audience’s perspective and current concerns or aspirations, you’ll be far better able to shape what you have to say for their particular view on the world, and thus influence their thinking.
2. Have Something To Say
Have you ever listened to someone speaking and thought, ‘Where are you going with this?’ Or, ‘What is your point?’ This reaction is typical when a speaker hasn’t put enough thought into what they are trying to say, which can easily leave an audience feeling confused. According to TEDx producer Tricia Brouk, you need to be able to communicate an idea in 15 words or fewer, or else risk losing your audience. To boost your impact, make sure you have something to say, and distil your headline message into one clearly expressed point. Then be brave enough to put the elephant on the table by stating your key message upfront.
3. Define Your Objectives
Communication without purpose is just talk. To ensure your communication is purposeful, ask yourself: what do I want my audience to know, feel and do as a result of this communication? If you are clear on your objectives for a conversation or meeting, it will be much easier to plan an appropriate route map or agenda to get there.
4. Be Authentic
We’ve all heard the saying ‘people buy people’. Sometimes we forget to share a bit of who we are at work and miss opportunities to connect human to human. Remember, when it comes to having influence and impact, you and your relationships are your most valuable assets. Think about how you can use authenticity to strengthen trust in your relationships by sharing a bit more of your personality, perspectives and values.
5. Use Simple, Human Language
An audience will only retain 40% of what you say, so keep spoken-word communication as clear and simple as possible. Don’t let your communication drift into corporate abstractions, acronyms and complex vocabulary; use simple, human language instead. If in doubt, ask yourself: how would I explain this to a friend?
6. Pace Yourself
There are two important elements to speaking pace: rate of words and rate of thoughts. Both require attention. When it comes to words, an energetic, conversational pace is fine – as long as the articulation of each word is clear. However, for a conversational speaking pace to be effective, the rate of thoughts must be controlled because it is in the space between each thought that the audience has a chance to comprehend and digest what you have said.
7. Balance Strength & Warmth
In leadership, it’s safer to be feared than loved, said Macchiavelli. In fact, when it comes to persuading others to action, we need to use our communication to project both strength and warmth. There’s a whole host of non-verbal cues we can use to get the balance right. Maintain a level brow when in conversation, use a genuine smile or focus your gaze when communicating a point.
8. Plan The Pauses
Pauses are one of the most powerful tools in your communication armoury because they create space for you and your listeners to think about what you’ve said. Unfortunately, most of us find silence awkward and use verbal fillers like ‘um’, ‘er’ or ‘kind of’ to fill the space. These fillers rapidly undermine our authority because they signal uncertainty. Scrap the fillers and plan pauses to underline key statements instead.
9. Speak With Conviction
Conviction is key. It’s impossible to convince someone else about an idea if you can’t talk about it with genuine conviction yourself. Work hard on your diction, giving every word its worth. Next, add emphasis to underline key words and phrases. Finally, vary your pitch and intonation to create tonal variety for your audience. These simple tips will help you command your audience’s attention and amplify your personal conviction.
10. Practice, Practice, Practice
There’s no silver bullet when it comes to communicating with impact, but perhaps the most overlooked and important thing that will help is practice. The majority of the most effective speakers we see in public life have had lots and lots of practice, and will continue to practice and rehearse in the lead up to their key moments – often tens or even hundreds of times. So, practise and practise lots. And remember: ‘An amateur practices until they can get it right. A professional practises until they cannot get it wrong.’
Pippa Bateman’s clients include FTSE 100 CEOs, senior partners and executive board members of some of the world’s most successful professional services firms, politicians and public figures. She also delivers leadership communication courses as part of a number of high-profile leadership development programmes.
Discover more at pippabateman.com