Recently, I asked one of my clients how often they present. The answer: twice a year, maybe. My client was referring to how often they stand in front of a roomful of people with a slide presentation behind them. Hmmm… Really? Is that all?
I would like to broaden the definition of ‘presenting’ to any time we have to speak to someone and persuade them to take action, support a project, sign a contract, give up the old way for the new way of doing something, etc. With slides or without slides behind us.
That means you are presenting every day: in meetings, on telephone calls, on video calls, in elevators or sometimes, even in a bathroom. (A wee anecdote comes to mind about convincing a female Head of IT of the importance of certain system functionality while we were washing our hands at the same time – she was really hard to tie down for a meeting!)
What does it take to be successful if we use the new definition of presenting?
- Topic expertise
- Well thought-out arguments and logic
- Emotional intelligence
- Excellent communication skills: questioning, listening, negotiating, speaking, influencing, etc.
Yes indeed, the same skills you need when you present with slides behind you twice a year. That’s why it’s so important to work on improving our ‘presentation’ skills every day, not just in spurts twice a year to get us ready for the official presentation to a roomful of people.
I can imagine the moans and groans now: I don’t have time to worry about my communication skills every day! Of course I am emotionally intelligent – that’s just a buzzword anyway! I’m right brained so naturally, I’m logical!
I believe there is always something we can learn from others at meetings, in presentations and on calls. The learning might be acquiring new information and knowledge. It might also be learning communication strategy and techniques.
We can learn what NOT to do by watching or listening to others. (You know what I’m talking about. Remember that time you were sitting in a meeting, watching and listening, and then something went wrong. You thought “Note to self: Don’t ever … “)
Or we can learn what TO do by watching or listening to presenting ‘greats’, from skilled colleagues to Steve Jobs and Martin Luther King Jr.
Here are 10 ways you can learn and improve your communication skills every day without much effort:
- Ask for feedback from someone you trust to be honest with you after a business interaction.
- Assess the outcome you got from a business interaction against the outcome you wanted, taking into account mood and tone at the conclusion of the interaction.
- Sign up for internal seminars on communication strategy and techniques – they are often less expensive than external seminars.
- Read/listen to online resources like LinkedIn, podcasts, etc., on your ride to/from work.
- Organize a brown-bag lunch series at work to share expertise and experience.
- Read a non-fiction book for 30 minutes a day. (I’ve just started The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge, M.D.)
- Do something you’re scared of every day, like making that call you have been avoiding or calling someone and sharing with them how you can help them be more successful.
- Join Toastmasters to improve your public speaking skills. (I’m the Vice President of Education at the Heidelberg International Toastmasters Club at the time of writing – I highly recommend Toastmasters to improve your speaking skills within a safe community.)
- Call someone in your network to catch up: ask questions, listen to answers, share insights, offer help and share successes.
- Consistently ask for and volunteer for opportunities where you have to speak in front of others, whether it’s one person, three people or 60 people.
Learn by listening. Learn by watching. Learn by doing. If you consciously build this philosophy into your life, you’ll improve your communication skills and your success before you know it.
And number 11: Find a communication skills trainer or coach. We’re here to help.
Wishing you every success in your journey to excellent communication skills and success.