A 2017 Deloitte survey states that communication skills are the most important ingredient to succeed in the workplace and life, in general. Being able to articulate their vision clearly is a defining feature of successful leaders. Not only in the workplace, but communication skills are also crucial in all walks of life be it friendships, relationships, or academia.
- Students need to develop communication skills to ace their vivas.
- Learners and job seekers need them to crack job interviews.
- Professionals and executives need to hone their soft skills to communicate a task or business objective to the letter.
- Entrepreneurs need to sell their business’s value proposition and vision to the masses.
You need to master the art of communication or else run the risk of getting left behind.
How to Improve Communication Skills?
1. Say a Lot Without Saying Anything
You can communicate more by embracing the right body language. If you’re on a stage presenting something, move around, maintain eye contact with the audience, use gestures. Keep the highlight on yourself. If you’re in a more informal setting, don’t slouch or keep your arms folded. And never look down; face your listeners confidently. All these non-verbal cues are great for capturing attention and ensuring that your audience latches on to every word you say.
2. Be a Good Listener First
A rookie mistake a bad orator often commits is delivering his/her monologue like an express train, without halting at any station. Remember that effective communication is a two-sided dialogue, so pause every now and again to read the room. Are there quizzical looks on their faces?
Do they seem bored? Do they have questions? Do not interrupt someone while they are making their point. Listen to what the other person is trying to convey, and make it abundantly clear that you have their undivided attention by nodding or via verbal feedback.
3. Ditch Visual Aids
The best orators know that PowerPoint presentations delivered over a projector get in the way of the narrative rather than enhancing it. So much so that Steve Jobs and Sheryl Sandberg mandated PowerPoint bans at Apple and Facebook, respectively.
Visual aids hijack the attention away from the story to the screen, and the message often gets lost in translation. Instead, focus on crafting a riveting storyline with the help of your words, anecdotes, and narrative structure.
4. Talk to Your Audience
Think about your least favourite lecture and try to analyse why it was a drag. Most probably, the answer you’ll come up with is because it was not interactive. Nobody likes a drab monologue. Even if the topic is interesting, it’s very difficult to stay focused for long periods of time if the speaker continues to ramble on without engaging the audience. No matter how good the communicator is, s/he is no match for dwindling attention spans.
This is why it’s essential to pass the speaking baton to the audience every now and again. Not only does it liven up the discussion, but also keeps the audience on their toes, ensuring your points are driven home. Ask them a question or throw in a hypothetical to get their thinking hats on. The short break can also be good for you to regather your thoughts and develop communication skills.
5. Embrace the PIP Technique
The first impression is the last impression. Half the battle is already won if you can grip the audience’s attention with a compelling introduction. The PIP method, popularised by McKinsey and widely replicated and used by others, is a great way to nail the beginning of your presentation. Under this approach, the speaker first defines the purpose of the presentation, followed by why it’s important by going over possible repercussions.
Finally, s/he gives a short preview of what’s in store vis-a-vis topics to be covered (like a Table of Contents). This framework is extremely useful in aligning the audience with a broad theme and getting them excited. It also helps them to get an overview of the gist and keep track of the key takeaways.
6. Get Comfortable with Extempore
A good communicator is always well-prepared, but sometimes the need of the hour is spontaneity. You should get accustomed to veering from your carefully drafted notes and engage in off-the-script dialogues. One advantage when you keep your talks flexible is that you come across as a natural, someone who is comfortable going with the flow.
Secondly, you don’t sound robotic or, worse, reading words off of a teleprompter. And last but not least, your communication skills get sharpened, and your mind gets trained to be put on the spot without getting flustered.
7. Avoid Fluff
One thing audiences hate is when a speaker keeps beating around the bush. Try to communicate your point in as few words as possible, without compromising its meaning or the sentiment. In other words, keep it crisp, specific, and to the point. Use shorter sentences and conversational lingo. Steer clear of flowery language and words that the layman is not familiar with.
Communication is arguably the most important skill you should acquire because it is so ubiquitously required. If you want to hone this crucial skill, you should strongly consider pursuing an Arts degree from upGrad. You can enrol for courses like M.A. in Communication and Journalism affiliated with Mumbai University. A 6-month internship is included in the program, and you also get additional certifications (SILP, BA).