Not everyone can walk into an arena, head held high, and confidently and clearly recite an engaging speech that leaves the audience cheering wildly and screaming for more. Some people struggle to coherently express their views even in a one-to-one environment, and can stumble through the simplest of conversational exchanges.
Thankfully, most of us fall somewhere in the middle of these 2 extremes, but we could all do with a little help every now and then, particularly in day-to-day business exchanges with customers or colleagues, to make sure that we are communicating effectively and with confidence.
So – where to start?
There’s always the ‘imagine the audience naked’ advice that is so casually dropped moments before you have to make an important speech. In my experience, this only adds to the horror! Instead, I would heartily recommend pausing for a moment before entering the conversational ‘performance space’ (that description really does make it sound as though some kind of gladiatorial show-down is just about to take place…), and take a deep breath. Try to regulate your heart-rate with steady breathing and calm thoughts, particularly if you are prone to spells of nervous anticipation or anxiety.
Heart pounding - gripped by nerves ...
If you try to make a coherent speech whilst your heart is pounding and you are gripped by nerves, chances are that you will stumble over your words, or speak too quickly, too quietly, or even too loudly! This is a result of the adrenaline surging through your system when you begin to panic, as it triggers a primal ‘flight’ response to get you out of the situation as quickly as possible. By taking a few deep breaths, you may be able to take back some control over this deeply ingrained emotional response, and be more likely to communicate your thoughts effectively to your audience – hoorah for the power of a few deep breaths!
Be prepared ...
Another suggestion I can make is – be prepared! Obviously, you can’t enter every conversation knowing what you want to say unless you are psychic! I’m talking about the events that you know are coming up; events that are important for you or for your business – i.e. Networking, training days, or important conversations with customers or colleagues. It is likely that you will have some kind of specific objective for these kinds of events.
Take networking, for example – it is likely that you are attending a networking event in order to build professional relationships with potential customers or professional ‘allies’, so your aim would be to communicate clearly and effectively who you are and what you do, as well as what kind of contacts you would like to make. If you are the kind of person who gets flustered easily, or if you are a little forgetful, write down the key points you would like to communicate, and refer to them if necessary. If nerves allow, try not to rely on the notes too much – looking up and around at your audience helps to keep them engaged as you speak, and puts them at ease, making it easier for your audience to relate to you and respond with confidence.
Be clear and concise ...
Another great tip to help with confident and effective communication is mentioned by Raju Woodward in his article ‘Top ten tips for effective communication’:
“Be concise: Time is valuable, and the last thing you want to do is waste someone’s time. Be clear and concise – rambling on can diminish what you are trying to communicate”
This great tip can really help you to retain your confidence throughout your ‘performance’: seeing people shifting uncomfortably in their seats and playing with their mobiles or beginning to chat amongst themselves can be a real confidence knock when you have been brave enough to try and overcome your nerves and make a speech in public. Avoid this issue by ensuring that your language is clear and your speech concise – don’t give the audience the time to get bored, as the message that you want to convey is worth more than that!
Make a great impression ...
This blog just touches upon a select few hints and tips, I know, but if you really struggle with communication and need more help and support, there are a great variety of effective communication skills courses out there that can really help. You are the face of your business, and the impression that you give to others when speaking to customers, colleagues or at events should reflect the knowledge, skills and ability that you have worked so hard to acquire – so be the best you possible!
People will admire you for it - Clare