Four ways to be a more effective communicator
For most people, effectively communicating your thoughts and messages is not easy. Though some people are natural born talkers, the rest of us have to work at our craft and continuously refine how we approach public speaking, interviews and meetings. Here are four simple ways to instantly boost your talking game:
No more um’s
Want to lose a person’s interest right away? Say “um” several times in a few minutes. Research has shown that people who say “um” a lot come across as indecisive, and are perceived as lacking confidence in what they are saying. By eliminating them from your regular speech, you instantly come across as more articulate and confident. This is especially so in more formal settings where other slang such as “ah” or “like” or “ya know” has no place in most discussions.
Some simple ways to eliminate these so-called “discourse markers” from interviews or other similar discussions include giving yourself an extra second or two to form your response by starting an answer with “that’s a great question,” or blocking and bridging to messaging by saying something like “what our clients often tell us” and offer up anecdotal information that brings the conversation back around to your main talking points.
During the debates, people were often distracted from what his opponent Hillary Clinton was saying because he would make outrageous faces or hand gestures while she spoke. In one instance, he even lurked behind her during a town hall meeting. While these tactics may have worked during a divisive political campaign, they should mostly be avoided during media interviews, panel discussions, keynote addresses or even at a cocktail party.
If you want people to be engaged with what you are saying, you need to be engaged with them. Simple things like making eye contact with an interviewer, sitting straight up in your chair or having a relaxed but confident posture on stage project a vastly different image than slouching, rolling your eyes or pulling your head back in reaction to something said by someone else.
People who can share a relatable anecdote with their audience often connect with them on a much deeper level than people who stay strictly business. Whether it’s Warren Buffett discussing his fast food habits and professing his love for Coca-Cola or the chief executive of a Fortune 500 company discussing his hardscrabble childhood, sharing select details about your personal life makes you more human.
If you’d rather keep your personal life out of the spotlight, you can also refer to stories other people might also be familiar with. Most people have heard of Steve Jobs, but they may not be familiar with his ancestry or how he and Steve Wozniak founded Apple and built their first computers in a garage. Realizing the American dream through hard work, tireless dedication and a little bit of luck is a story many can appreciate, especially when told through the lens of one of the most successful people in history.
This point may be last, be it certainly is not least. No matter who you are speaking with, it helps to do your homework. All great public speakers have a handful of talking points tailored to the audience they are trying to reach, and these are always prepared in advance. People who are able to tailor their messages to their audience are often perceived to be better public speakers because they come across as more knowledgeable and confident.
This holds true for anyone at any stage of life. A great example that comes to mind is former Texas Governor Rick Perry’s infamous gaffe during a presidential debate in which he claimed to want to cut funding to three government agencies to reduce the federal deficit. When asked which agencies he wanted to cut, Perry could only name two and awkwardly fumbled through his index cards before giving up. Though he later remembered the third agency (the Department of Energy), the damage was done and his campaign was all but finished.
Becoming a good public speaker will not happen overnight, and these are only a few of many different ways to improve how people see you on-screen, on stage or at a small gathering.