6 Ways to Improve Your Communication

July 25, 2011

The past couple of years I have done a lot of public speaking.  Last year I gave 108 talks and the year before gave 118.

Most of these were shorter talks from five to ten minutes, but they were talks where I needed to prepare a message and deliver it to an audience.  Some of my audiences were as large as 120 people while others were as small as four people.

Along the way I've learned some key facts about communication that I've had to implement.  And you, as my Learning Leadership readers get to read it first before anyone else.

1) Prepare Yourself – I never go to a talk that I haven't prepared myself for.  I need to make sure I've slept enough the night before, that I'm well groomed, and I have my outlined prepared.

2) Research the Audience - This is where I get to know my audience by doing research on the company or the audience I'm going to be speaking to.  If I'm talking about United Way to a group of potential donors at a company, I research that company to see if they have any prior experience with donating to United Way or other charities in the area.  If they have donated to other charities, then I can lean on those other charities as credibility by referencing how we partner with them.

3) Arrive Early and Connect – Arriving early to give a talk is something I learned from Mark Sanborn.  When I'm there early I get to shake a few hands of the people I'll be speaking with. I smile and gesture that I'm there as a friend who's speaking to them, not someone there trying to get something out of them. 

Arriving early also allows me to get a feel for the layout of the room, where I will be speaking from, and any lighting or noise distractions that I might have to combat.

4) Talk Clearly and Short – Longer isn't always better when it comes to giving a talk.  You have to be short, sweet, and simple.  And I've found the best way for me to do that is to enunciate clearly and limit my talk to as short of time as possible to get my message across.

If you have trouble enunciating clearly, try reading a book out loud for a while and exaggerate the movement your mouth.  Since a teenager I've always had trouble with mumbling my words because I don't open my mouth and move my lips enough with I speak.  Reading out loud from time to time helps with this.

5) Focus on a Purpose – At the top of every outline I have I write a purpose statement.  It goes something like this:

Purpose: To teach how United Way's 2-1-1 help line can be beneficial to them and their family.

The purpose helps me get rid of anything in my talk that might take away from my message.

6) Talk to Them, Not at Them – This is an issue of your attitude towards people, not necessarily the way you communicate.  To be an effective public speaker you have to have a healthy view of people as inherently good and worthy of respect.  If you look down on people and see them as a way to get what you want, there is no way you can treat them with respect and encourage them.

Question: What are some tips and communication thoughts that have improved your public speaking?

Christopher L. Scott

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Christopher Scott is Small Groups Pastor at Rocky Hilly Community Church in Exeter, CA. He has more than ten years of experience leading volunteers, running nonprofit programs, and teaching the Bible in small group settings. He holds a bachelor's degree from Fresno Pacific University and master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

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5 responses to 6 Ways to Improve Your Communication

  1. Great article – clear and straight-forward. I would like to expand a bit on #6 with one of my tips: Reduce ‘separation anxiety’ by reframing it as an ‘informative conversation’ within a group, as opposed to a ‘big speech’. That’s when I use the phrase “Talk to them, not at them.”

  2. Thanks for sharing.
    Very true.
    One habit I have at the beginning of my talks is to start out by saying, “Hello, My name is Christopher. . .” This helps to put me at easy and helps me to feel that my talk is more of a conversation between the participants and I.
    Thanks for sharing!

  3. טיפול זוגי אצל אסתי גיזנברג November 28, 2011 at 8:11 am

    I short out Most of conversations in five to ten minutes, but they were in discussions which I needed to prepare the message and transmits it to the public.

  4. Yes, that is why the communication needs to be short and sweet.