Effective communication is a critical leadership skill, but it takes practice. Most successful communicators start by getting into the practice of engaging in informal chats and learning how to take an interest in others. Being relatable puts people at ease, and sets the stage for others to listen without being intimidated or prejudiced. And developing a good sense of humor goes a long way in getting people to open up and loosen up. Being relatable and humorous sets the tone.
One of the things I practice when I’m presenting to an audience is to repeat the critical points I want the audience to take away from my talk. Most people aren’t great at remembering more than 20 percent of a presentation, so get in the habit of repeating your key points.
Perhaps the greatest asset of becoming an effective communicator is becoming an effective listener. Two points I would make here: first, listening is an art and you really need to practice. Number two, once you understand what someone is asking you, you need to address it head on and not become evasive. You want to build your reputation as someone who will tell it like it is and not sidestep the tough discussions. Obviously, this takes practice, as you don’t want to be stepping on people’s toes and upsetting the applecart. But effective communicators do step up and address the tough issues as they arise.
Another key asset of effective communicators is that they live in the moment. When I’m working a convention floor or cocktail networking event, I’m there – my mind isn’t miles away worrying about the house sitter or tomorrow’s meetings. I’m tuned into my environment and ready to listen and ready to respond.
Finally, be yourself. Find your own voice. I have been around and admired many effective communicators and used them as a reference point and a bellwether. But at the end of the day, to be effortless in communication, you have to speak from the heart. Others will admire your poise, your knowledge base, your listening abilities – and they might even agree with your point of view. What they’ll remember is how you present yourself and how you present your ideas. And whether you were effective in your communications.