Being an effective communicator is essential in the business world. Each communication session should have a goal. For some the goal may be to establish a relationship, for others it will be to sell a product. To increase our chance of achieving those goals we’re going to get into an important concept of “Establishing a Connection”.
Establish a Connection. Within the first couple of seconds of interaction the person you’re communicating with will form an opinion of you that will influence their ability to react positively to your message – more simply, they’ll connect with you or they won’t. This concept works whether your “audience” includes meeting someone the first time or pitching an idea to a large group. Here are 11 skill’s you’ll need to possess to be a successful communicator:
- Start with eye contact. Did I just start with the cliche first step of “Having good eye contact”? Yes, but really the rule should be “Don’t have bad eye contact”. People actually do, subconsciously, notice when you’re engaging the room by connecting visually with them, however, they more consciously realize when you’re avoiding eye contact by reading off your notes or relying on the screen. Be remembered as the person trying to engage others in your message, not as the passive robot who didn’t realize there were other people in the room.
- Throw in some physical contact. Of course you don’t want to be the creepy, touchy-feely, person, but physical contact can be a great of way connecting with the person and letting them know you’re relaxed. A handshake with a pat on the arm, a hug instead of a handshake (if appropriate) or a pat on the back are all examples of acceptable forms contact which break down barriers of communication.
- Movement. Effective communicators do not stand behind (or even use) a podium – they move around and establish an area presence. Now that you’re moving, use hand gestures to point and interact. I’m not telling you to tap dance around your lunch meeting, however, your body language can say a lot about both you and your message – if you’re passionate and have something to say, act like it. Read: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
- Exude Confidence. I love the phrase “exude confidence” – people listen to those who exude confidence. The basis of confidence is preparation. Whether it’s anticipating questions or researching the client you’re about to meet, the more information you have going into a communication scenario, the more successful you’ll be.
- Be Comfortable and Likeable. You want people to be comfortable around you. If you’re too intimidating or rigid they wont listen to your message. Be humorous or self deprecating if appropriate, trick your audience into thinking you’re actually a likeable person.
- Interact! Do your best to be engaging. Ask questions to get your audience involved and opened up. This is also great trick to reducing the potential awkwardness of meeting someone for the first time. I try to have a couple staple questions about family, hobbies, school ready to break out if the conversation is slowing down. Interacting is also one of the 7 Ways to Be Seen as an Expert in Your Industry.
- Listening: The other side of communicating. Being an effective communicator isn’t just about getting your message out, it’s also about listening to others. Most people seem to just be waiting for their turn to speak rather than listening to what’s being said. Really listen to what’s being said. Ironically, the best way to communicate and get your point across is to listen and identify with the opinions of your audience.
- Remember your audience. You’ll score points with your audience by remembering them in the future. I am terrible about remembering people’s names who I just meet. It’s like it immediately goes in one ear and out the other. A trick that works for me is to repeat their name followed up by an identifier. For instance, “Michael, nice to meet you – I like your tie”. For the rest of the event I’ll be able to identify the tie with the name – or vice versa. Don’t over do this, as you may just seem weird, but creating linked identifiers will definitely help trigger your memory.
- Follow up – Don’t be forgotten. After you’ve communicated and worked to achieve your goal – follow up. I make it a point to email the person I just had the lunch meeting with – typically thanking them (even if I paid). On meetings with clients I follow up with something positive that we agreed on or a key concern they had. This lets them know I was listening and have aligned my priorities with their own.
- Follow proper email etiquette. While it can be hard to impress someone with your email etiquette it sure isn’t hard to offend them. It can be tempting to relax your grammatical standards in an email, try to fight this urge – you don’t know who your email will be forwarded to. Avoid typing in all caps, using excessive exclamation points or smiley faces. Remember that tone, sarcasm and humor can be hard to detect in an email – save your jokes for the phone. KEEP IT PROFESSIONAL!!!!!!! :-p
- Be presentable. Your appearance communicates a lot about your message. Are you over-dressed or under-dressed? Did you physically as well as mentally prepare? Don’t spoil your message by distracting your audience with your appearance.
Looking for more information on increasing your personal effectiveness? Here’s a great read: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Do you have any tips or tricks for those of us wanting to communicate better? If so feel free to share them in the comments section.
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