Why You Already Know How To Be A More Effective Communicator
by Robin Sacks
by Robin Sacks
Want a tip that will instantly make you a more effective communicator?
Most people have some anxiety around public speaking. The moment someone asks you to present something, even if it's off in the future, it's common for your stomach to feel like it's doing somersaults, your temples to start dripping sweat, and your negative self-talk to remind you how you hate speaking in front of people and that you'll probably mess it up.
Not a great place to start, but for many, a realistic one. But if you get in the habit of always looking at it from the audience's standpoint and thinking about what they need, it can help drop your stress levels down to more manageable ranges quickly.
Here's how it works.
You spend most of your life in "the audience." Like most people, you are probably a listener at least as often as you are the one 'in front of the room.' Because of that, you already know that sometimes you are engaged by a speaker and, at other times, you are bored and making your grocery list in your head while they talk. You know that sometimes a speaker pulls you in and sometimes they push you away. You know when you are experiencing death by Power Point, and when someone uses a visual aid really well to help keep your attention.
But what are those people actually doing that either engages you or puts you to sleep?
If you start to pay attention when others are speaking or presenting, you will quickly notice a few simple things that people are doing to either hold your attention or make you want to tune out.
Here are some examples you might become aware of: If someone is speaking quickly, they are hard to follow and it's impossible for a listener to process what they are saying. However, when someone speaks at a pace that allows you to follow them easily, and they pause occasionally so that you can actually understand what they just said, it's much easier to pay attention. If someone is fidgeting a lot while they're talking, chances are you will begin to watch their behaviors so much that you will miss some of what they say. You may also begin to feel fidgety yourself. However, when someone sits back in their chair, puts their feet on the floor, rests their arms on the arms of the chair, they instantly appear more calm, confident, and open and their behavior is not a distraction from their message. You may also begin to feel more calm, as well, and that makes you want to listen more. If someone puts up a Power Point slide that is nothing but a spreadsheet filled with numbers, all of the eyes in the room will be in different places and whatever is being said will again be lost to that distraction. However, when someone tells you a story about a client who was positively impacted by your team's performance in the last quarter first, and then puts up that last quarter's spreadsheet to to help to clarify their message, you don't have to figure anything out while they are talking...they've already told you the story about the impact, the numbers you see simply support it instead of taking over.
Beginning immediately, become an observer of how other people communicate. Really watch what people are doing or not doing when they speak. When someone is interesting to listen to you, what are they doing to keep you interested? When someone is not keeping your attention, what are they doing to lose you?
It is typically not the subject matter, but the communicator that pulls you in or pushes you away.
With something like effective communication skills, a lot of learning can come from simply observing. Then, once you identify what speakers are doing that make them effective, you can begin to incorporate those things into your own communications or seek out coaching specific to the things you would like to work on.
(By the way, if you have any questions about this or would like to work with a public speaking and confidence coach, you can reach out to me anytime to have a conversation!)