To communicate effectively, you need to be good at active listening, message delivery and asking for feedback. These are some of our favourite techniques for taking communication skills to the next level.

Adapt the message to your audience

One of the first things you should do for effective communication is learn how to adapt your communication (style and messaging) for different audiences. If you’re talking to your safety team about a new policy, they’re probably already aware of the problem, so you can get deeper in the weeds of execution details. But when you roll out the same policy to frontline employees, adjust your message. Most likely, you’ll take a broader approach. Explain the purpose of the policy and how it should be physically carried out in their day to day.

The same is true for any situation. You would address a group of kindergartners, tech entrepreneurs, cattle farmers and fitness professionals differently based on the topic, what you’re trying to convey and where the discussion is taking place.

Prepare for the message delivery

How are you standing? Is your body language open and inviting? Are you making lots of eye contact or looking at a screen?

Before any communication, whether it’s a one-on-one meeting or major speech, prepare yourself. You might spend a few minutes taking deep breaths before a presentation or review a meeting agenda before a huddle.

Be authentic as you communicate

According to a post, authentic leaders are 50% more passionate, with messages that are 29% clearer. They exude warmth and openness. When talking to colleagues and subordinates, they have a sense of immediacy and are fully present in the conversation.

People also want to work more with authentic leaders and communicators. Being trustworthy and reliable ultimately makes your job easier because people will want to collaborate with you.

Be enthusiastic and engaged when speaking

People are more receptive to positive stimuli. Smiling and showing your enthusiasm are top strategies for better communication. By using these techniques, you make people more likely to listen to you and buy into what you’re saying.

Manage nonverbal signals to control the message

According to body language researcher Albert Mehrabian, 55% of communication is nonverbal and 38% is vocal, while only 7% consists of spoken words.

This means it’s incredibly important to manage your nonverbal signals. If you’re constantly glancing at the clock with your feet pointed toward the door, your audience will think you aren’t interested in the conversation. For better communication, your nonverbal signals and spoken words must be in sync.

Practice active listening when people respond to you

Active listening isn’t just hearing what someone says. It involves showing your engagement with the discussion by asking questions and caring about what they say. By being an active listener, you demonstrate your interest in the other person’s message and build a stronger relationship with them. It also helps you remember details from the conversation.

You know those people who never forget a name? They’re probably active listeners. One tactic is repeating the person’s name back to them during an introduction. But you can also do this on projects by repeating directions or rephrasing what someone has said to make sure you fully understand. Nodding, making eye contact and leaning forward also show you’re engaged.

Ask for feedback from team members

One of the most effective and efficient ways to improve your communication is to ask for feedback. After all, most of us learn and grow through change.

Start by creating a process for giving feedback. This could be a brief, post-meeting survey or an in-person discussion. Also, implement an open-door policy so employees feel like they can approach you with any of their problems.

Probe for understanding to confirm you’re being heard

Asking questions shows the speaker how engaged you are in the conversation. It also gives you more information and a natural opportunity to practice active listening.

Handle conflicts respectfully

You won’t always agree with your team members, bosses and subordinates. Even if you won’t see eye to eye on everything, you do need to communicate in a respectful way if you want to keep your working relationship going. As a general rule, never say anything in anger you would want to take back once you calm down.

Use the right tools

Sometimes, the best tip for effective communication is figuring out which tool to use. There is a time and place for tools like email, Slack, one-on-one conversations, team discussions and group meetings. Each tool has its own benefits and limitations, so think carefully before choosing one tool over another.

  • Email: People use email communication for simple updates and questions. If you want a group discussion or need to address a complex topic, email can quickly spiral out of control. For more complex matters, you should use a different tool.
  • Slack: Slack is efficient for all types of conversations because you can do individual and group chats across different channels. It integrates with more than 2,000 apps, so your teams can work in their other tools simultaneously without needing to switch contexts. Send a file in one project channel, give quick feedback in another or launch a meeting right in the chat.
  • One-on-one conversations: One-on-one conversations are great for constructive criticism and individual training. But they aren’t ideal if you need to address things to a team or provide a simple update. Use one-on-one conversations for sensitive or complex exchanges.
  • Team discussions: Team discussions are typically brief, on-the-fly chats. Use these for real-time group collaboration when there’s a specific goal in mind, or for stand-ups and scrums. Avoid using these for updates on projects that don’t overlap or where a large portion of attendees are unaffected.
  • Group meetings: These are great if you need to train or update the entire group at once. Use these sparingly. If you’re conveying something that can be sent in a short message, do that! When you do need a group meeting, schedule it ahead of time and have a clear agenda with expected outcomes.

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What are business communication skills?

Business communication skills include traits that help professionals convey information in the workplace. These skills encompass primary forms of communication, like active listening, and communication techniques necessary to build professional relationships, like negotiation and networking skills. Communication skills in business are essential for supporting team collaboration, giving and receiving clear feedback and encouraging creativity. Using your business communication skills effectively can show your employer how you interact with others, initiate activities and achieve results.

Examples of business communication skills

Business communication skills can encompass hard and soft skills that help professionals succeed in the workplace. The following examples include skills that are important for effective communication in business:

Collaboration skills

Effective collaboration is necessary for working with colleagues and supporting the achievement of your organization’s goals. This aspect of your business communication skills requires asking questions during team meetings, considering others’ ideas and perspectives and encouraging your team’s contributions. With strong collaboration skills, professionals can develop successful strategies that help their organizations achieve desired results.

Negotiation skills

Negotiation skills are important for evaluating alternative solutions, building rapport with other professionals and seeking compromise. Business professionals rely on negotiation skills for many activities, including making sales transactions, acquiring new partners and seeking investors. Likewise, employees and employers may also rely on practical negotiation skills to establish salary and pay.

Diplomacy skills

Diplomacy is a skill set that can enhance how professionals build relationships with colleagues, supervisors, clients and other professionals. Diplomacy requires tact and understanding of how to navigate stressful situations and challenges through communication. Additionally, your diplomacy skills can support your persuasiveness and assertiveness during negotiations, collaborative projects and other activities.

Written communication

Written communication is a primary form of communication that is necessary no matter your career field. Communicating information in writing, drafting reports, sending messages and reviewing written documents are everyday business tasks that rely on strong writing skills. Writing skills also include reviewing writing for errors and determining revisions that can enhance written materials.

Presentation skills

Another essential skill set for effective business communication is developing and delivering engaging presentations to diverse audiences. Presentation skills help professionals organize the structure of a display, design the delivery method and communicate information to teammates, business executives and other professionals. Another important aspect of your presentation skills is conveying information using various techniques to engage with an audience, including oral speaking, visual representations and nonverbal interactions.

Public speaking skills

Speaking in front of various audiences sometimes requires multiple job roles. Preparing a speech and engaging an audience can help businesses address network professionals, potential investors and communities. Public speaking also requires connecting with an audience through telling a story, providing relevant information and creating awareness about trending topics.

Active listening

Active listening includes various traits that help professionals improve understanding and foster supportive work relationships. Professionals who ask questions, seek mutual understanding and consider others’ thoughts and ideas often succeed at building advantageous professional networks. Additionally, active listening skills require attention to detail to avoid miscommunications and recall specific details during conversations, meetings and other office interactions.

Feedback and input

Effective business communication relies on regular feedback and input. Constructive feedback encourages reflective thinking and improvement. Successful professionals apply feedback from their superiors to improve performance and achieve objectives. Similarly, it’s important to provide input and advice in the workplace to share ideas and inspire others.

Delegation skills

Managers and leaders in the workplace rely on delegation skills to organize, direct and oversee projects and tasks. Efficient delegation depends on your ability to designate and manage the workflow of important projects among your team members. Establishing expectations and providing support and resources are aspects of your delegation skills that are important for business communication.

Non-verbal communication

Nonverbal communication skills refer to your ability to understand what others are conveying through their body language. Eye contact, posture and even an individual’s stance can help you know what someone is feeling. Nonverbal communication is also beneficial for interacting appropriately in different situations, such as maintaining professionalism during company meetings.

Conflict resolution

Working through challenges with others and finding creative solutions to solve problems in the workplace are crucial for solid business communication skills. Successful conflict-resolution skills help professionals discuss alternative approaches, evaluate strategies and make compromises to ensure positive outcomes in stressful situations.

Decision-making skills

Analyzing factors that influence outcomes and evaluating alternative approaches to various actions require solid decision-making skills. As you advance in your career, you may take on important tasks that require you to consider difficult choices, assess your strategies for meeting objectives and make meaningful decisions that support your organization’s growth and development.

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I received a invitation to speak at an IT event recently. When I enquired about the speaker fee, I was informed that there would be no fee, rather I would be speaking to over 50 people, who were future potential clients (through them or through people they know). Having made  a decision a number of years ago to cease providing fee speaking engagements but before saying no, I thought about it. I hadn’t delivered a speech like this in a while, so I felt it would be good to do it and push out my comfort zone again i.e. back to where it was, so I said yes.

Knowing some people in the audience i.e. former attendees at previous training courses and some private clients, I felt that this had to be delivered well. And with no fee involved, I had to impress the audience so as to secure some form of follow up enquiries (at least).

The speech title that I was requested to deliver upon could have been done off the cuff, as I knew it so well, however, I decided to prepare as much as possible. I put my structure and content on paper first, chose a speaking medium and then set out times in my day to practice and polish the delivery, to the point where I was looking forward to it, with anxiousness reducing and confidence increasing.

When the evening arrived, I was the second speaker, choosing second to compare myself to the first speaker and then adjust my delivery accordingly, if needed and if appropriate. The first speaker used a microphone and PowerPoint, where I didn’t on both counts. I focused on saying every letter in every word, pausing for effect and adding the music to my voice.

I was happy with my performance,  as were the audience based on feedback and I have since received five enquiries.

Moral of the story, as in the title – Prepare, Prepare, Prepare…

When it comes to speaking in public in front of people, we feel we have to transform ourselves into a different person, someone the audience is impressed by, someone who pleases every member of the audience, someone who speaks like a professional, someone who the audience will remember as a great speaker.
Yes, all of the above are somewhat true, but not entirely. Yes, we do have to speak differently, but we have to be authentic i.e. we have to be ourselves when speaking in public. If we are not, our audience will not accept us, they will know that we are not being yourselves and will most definitely not remember us, if they do, it will be for the wrong reasons.
As a public speaker, we have to be unique, show our own personality, our own way of speaking with the following focuses:
• Know our subject (know everything about it, indeed be an expert. If we feel we are not, it may affect our delivery)
• Stand, look and feel professional (be confident, be enthusiastic, believe in what we are saying)
• We have important things to say to our audience (understand that our subject is of relevance to our audience and will help them in their job, career, business and / or personal life)
The word enthusiastic was mentioned earlier and this is probably the key area where we can shine as a public speaker. How can we be enthusiastic? We can be enthusiastic in three ways:
1. By projecting / inflecting our voice
2. By using our body language from head to toe
3. Speaking from the heart
By practicing, focusing and doing the above, we will deliver a public speech that our audience will enjoy, remember and see us as an accomplished public speaker, while all the time we are being us.
Push out our comfort zone and offer to do / say yes to a public speaking opportunity to let people see that – This is me, this is who I am…!