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While some might speak to large audiences, the most important conversations are usually one-on-one or in small groups. These conversations might include an interview, asking a donor or member for money or a sponsorship, or requesting a loan or raise. Here are seven tips to enhance your skills as a communicator.
Tip #1 Prepare your main thoughts.
Determine what will be two or three main headlines. Write them down and say them out loud. This will keep you focused, especially if the upcoming conversation may get you flustered.
Tip #2 Tell your inner critic to be quiet.
We are our own worst critic. Instead of thinking of all the negatives responding to your idea or statement, think of the positives. Say to yourself “What good could come if I speak up and share my idea?”
Dismiss the butterflies that are flying around in your stomach by saying they are excitement about the positive responses you will receive, and you welcome them!
Tip #3 Utilize your body and hands effectively.
Your posture projects your confidence or lack thereof. If standing, keep your feet six inches apart, put your shoulders back, head up, and pretend you have a string attached to the top of your head pulling upward to the ceiling. If sitting, place your arms on the armrest or make sure you have at least one hand on the table. No slouching!
Refrain from putting your hands in your pockets or fiddling with your pen, these are traits that indicate you are nervous. Keep your hands visible. These build trust with your listener, showing you have nothing to hide. Use hand gestures to express your idea, if a big idea, hold your hands a beach ball length apart. If you have three points to make, hold up a finger at the start of each one. This also keeps the listener engaged.
Tip #4 Breathe.
A common mistake people make when they are nervous or anxious, is to speak too fast and not pausing to breathe. This will cause a person to continue talking until they run out of air, and your voice will become annoyingly creaky. So, pause often for a full breath—at the end of a sentence, moving into a new subject, or after a point is made.
Speak as you exhale. Speaking on the out breath gives you resonance and will make your voice deeper and more confident sounding.
Tip #5 Silence is an effective weapon in effective communication.
When you finish an important point, pause and count to three in your head. This allows the point made to sink into the listener. Silence can also cool down the temperature in a heated personal back- and- forth.
Count to three in your head before responding to a question. This will make sure you understood the question, give you time to think about the answer, and can also give you an upper hand in negotiating.
Tip #6 Rid your vocabulary of “fillers”.
Wiggle words, “um” and “ah” or “you know” phrases deflate your verbal power. Using these words or phrases will make you appear nervous, that you do not know your subject, or lack confidence.
The first step is to become aware of them. Ask your friends or family if you use a word or phrase too often. Audio tape yourself and listen for any “fillers”. Once you know you have them, then you can begin to work to eliminate them.
When you use the “filler” word or phrase, pause and take a breath, this will remind you of them. Or you can do what I did many years ago, have them cost you. Yes, each time you say a “filler” word or phrase, put a penny, nickel, dine, or quarter (your choice) into a jar. Do not think this will be cured quickly, it took me nine months to finally eliminate two filler words. Are you dying to know what the two words were????
Tip #7 Make a connection with your listener.
No matter if your audience is 100 or one, make a connection. Use eye contact and genuine smiles. Meet a gaze for three seconds, then look away so you do not make anyone squirm. The goal is to use a soft smile with definition in your checks. Not only does this make the audience feel comfortable, but it also sends signals to your brain that all is well.
Everyone has their own style, be authentic, enthusiastic and the most comfortable version of yourself. If you have other tips to share, please send them to me. I would love to receive them.
Until next month,