Why is it that oftentimes the smartest, most intelligent people have the most difficult time communicating their thoughts and ideas in a way that others can have the chance to fully understand? Most professionals have had the experience of sitting in an audience or in a meeting waiting for someone to speak that they’ve been anxious and interested to hear, only to have the presentation or communication fall flat. The speaker may have known their stuff, but they weren’t able to deliver it in a manner that allowed the audience to hear, understand and enjoy it.
There are six keys to confident communication that can be applied to any topic, or any situation where communication is important – be it a one-to-one meeting or a room filled with thousands of people.
Key #1: Know the desired outcome and the “why?” of your presentation, and share it with your audience. This means identifying what you expect the listener(s) will receive as a result of your information, and what you hope they will gain from listening to you. Write it down so you know it in advance, and share it with those who are listening before you begin to present. Set expectations for the outcome.
Key #2: Know your audience. This means learning a bit about the person or people you are speaking to. What do they know about your topic? What did they come to your presentation hoping to learn? Most presenters simply launch into their material; they don’t take the time to learn about what the audience or listener cares about – or already knows.
Key #3: Chunk information into segments. Most people operate on information overload; there is just so much in the way of information coming from so many places all of the time. When you present material and there is no organized flow, or no chunking of it so that the listener can understand what’s first, what’s next, etc., you leave your audience struggling to figure out what connects where. Take the time to look at your material and chunk it before you present.
Key #4: Provide context around the information. This involves telling your audience or listeners why the information should matter to them. This answers the “Why should I care?” question that many listeners are asking whenever they listen to new material. Don’t leave them wondering; explain why it matters as part of your presentation.
Key #5: Match communication and behavioral style. If your listener speaks in a low tone of voice and slowly, don’t speak loudly and quickly to them. Pay attention to the style and approach of the person you are speaking to, even with an audience, and match your tone and style to theirs. We listen to more than just words – we “listen” to body language and tone, too. Matching helps others to more easily understand us.
Key #6: Bring closure at the end. Many presentations just stop. Instead of just ending, recap for the listener or audience what you were going to tell them, and what you told them. Be sure to identify what’s next – a next step, a signature on the dotted line? What should happen after the presentation? Don’t leave it to chance; let them know.
These tips can help make communicating to anyone, whether an individual or a group, more effective and higher impact. Try each of them the next time you have something important to convey.