Effective communication with your own staff, with potential and existing customers is not just vaguely necessary….it is imperative! And it is imperative that you communicate confidently and effectively. These are the essential traits of a great leader!
Your appearance, your eye contact and your verbal communication are all aspects of ‘you’ as an entrepreneur, a business owner, that go a long way to contributing to your very success in your chosen field! Your appearance, how you dress, and how you carry yourself is a powerful advertisement to both your staff and your customers or clients.
That’s your first line in ‘walking your talk’, dressing both appropriately and professionally, silently conveys to your staff, and the people to whom you supply your products and services, that you take yourself and your business seriously! So, now that you have the recipe for ‘silent’ communication down to a fine art, let’s take a look at the skill necessary to impart your message verbally to all those you deal with, both in-house, and ‘out there’, in your chosen trade.
Stand up and speak
Standing up and speaking in front of an audience is a vital part of being both a leader and running a business. You need to communicate effectively, powerfully and with the confidence expected from somebody in charge, somebody who knows where he or she is going, and somebody who knows where they are taking their business.
There are many skills required in the various aspects to speaking or delivering presentations, and developing these skills will give you the edge to carry out your tasks and empower you with effective tools to market your business!
To start off with, once you have gathered or researched all the information (content) for your speech or presentation, you will need to plan some time aside to prepare the order in which you will communicate the information to your audience.
- Your talk needs an opening, a body, and a close, in other words, you need to firstly give your audience an idea of what you are going to speak about, then in the body of the speech, give them all the interesting details, and then, in the close, sum up what you have told them.
- If you are going to speak with notes, write them out on relatively small hand size cards that you can refer to when necessary. Write your words out neatly and clearly, so that you can see them at a glance, and highlight any words or sentences that you regard as important or that may need emphasis
- You must practice only referring to the cards when necessary. Familiarise yourself with the handling of the cards, read your speech through several times, or as many times as is necessary until you are comfortable with the layout of your information, and practice manoeuvring the cards from the front to the back as you speak.
The difference between an average presentation and a great one is in the delivery. prepare, prepare, prepare. And then practice, practice, practice!
As with most tasks, when talking to a few or more people, you need to be adequately prepared! Know your subject, and know that you know your subject; this will provide you with a necessary bit of confidence! While preparing the content of your talk, make sure that your facts are accurate, and that you have some interesting input that your audience will be interested to hear, something that they can remember, learn from, and take away with them!
Once you have your material ready in front of you, now you can really start to practice your talk. Now you have your material, you now need to work on your delivery, (this is the how of what you are going to say).
Take some time out, lock yourself away, and practice your speech out loud at least a dozen times over. The more you practice, the more confidence you will gain, and the better you will feel. The more effort you put into your preparation, the more impressive the result, so be sure to invest some time and effort here.
Once you have practiced your speech out loud, you need to add a bit of your own style to the talk… Add in a few pauses at appropriate places for effect, for example, after you have stated an interesting fact, simply pause for a few seconds to let your audience digest what you have just said… add in a bit of humour… humour breaks the ice, both for you (the speaker), and for your listeners… keep it clean, and appropriate to both the occasion, and your audience.
Setting the stage
Eye contact is hugely powerful, and a very effective way to connect with your audience. This takes a lot of practice; however, once you get it right, this skill will serve you enormously. Having eye contact with your listeners will convey both your confidence and your sincerity to them!
When members of a multitude of audiences were asked what the one most important quality of a speaker was, the answer was enthusiasm. Be enthusiastic, act enthusiastic while talking, be interesting and show some passion for your subject!
No matter how well prepared you are for your presentation it is perfectly natural to suffer from a bout of nerves! However, don’t think negative thoughts such as ‘I’m so nervous’. Remember that our bodies respond to our thoughts, so rather ‘up’ your positive self talk by saying to yourself, ‘I’m ready and confident to do this!’
If necessary, try some deep breathing exercises to calm you down, this always works for me. Inhale deeply through your nose, make a slow count to ten in your mind, and then exhale slowly and completely through your mouth. Do this exercise three or four times and you’ll feel yourself settling down a bit. Just before you get up to speak, have a few sips of water to remove dryness in your mouth.
Have a glass of water handy should you need it. Remember, when presenting to an audience, it is not about you, it’s about the audience. If you have done a great job of preparing and practicing your talk, and you are giving them great information, (some interesting stuff from which they are going to benefit), then you have succeeded in doing your bit!
Practice makes perfect
Remember how challenging it was the first time you attempted to drive a car? It does get easier with practice, and the more you practice and apply some effort, the more adept you will become at speaking in front of an audience. Put in the time, put in the effort, and know that in time, you will stand out amongst your peers with what will be regarded as a highly admirable skill!