True leaders understand the importance of effective communication. Powerful speeches have changed the world and served as powerful agents of persuasion. Whether you’re trying to change the world or change a lightbulb, the way you speak can mean the difference between getting walked on and being revered. Effective communication is not a “soft skill,” it’s a necessity if you’re dealing with human beings in your line of work.
Here’s how to say what you mean and mean what you say:
- Know What You’re Talking About: Don’t BS. When you speak and you are unsure of something don’t be afraid to admit that you’re unsure and will make active efforts to find out. People can sense that you don’t know what you’re talking about even if you think that you’ve fooled them. Be very aware of what you say, what you are sure of and what you aren’t sure of. Try this in your next conversation. Part of communicating like a leader is having your word respected and trusted, that trust comes from being educated on your topic and projecting confidence in your subject matter.
- Win The Crowd: No other tip on this list is more important than this. Your delivery and how you are perceived is even more important than what you’re saying. Body language, voice projection, volume, eye contact, hand position, speed; all of these are equally important ingredients to winning the opinion of your audience whether it’s 1000 people or 10 people in a boardroom meeting. Be sure to understand the difference between confidence and arrogance, do not boast or brag, try and add humour to what you’re saying unless it’s a serious topic. Gauge your audience’s reaction to what you’re saying; frowns are obviously bad, head-nods and smiles are great and indicate that you should keep doing what you’re doing and that your speaking points are resonating.
- Listen: No, I mean actually and actively listen. You’d be surprised how many leaders think they’re excellent listeners in the corporate world but they’re far from it and team morale indicates this. Active listening is a skill. Fighting the urge to offer your opinion when someone is speaking to you is a lot harder to do when you’re in a position of power. Take the time to hear what people are saying, a few seconds to process it, understand the meaning and then offer a response. If you’re nodding and looking elsewhere when people are speaking to you it’s being perceived negatively whether you think so or not. Maintain eye contact and resist distraction, pretend that person in front of you or that subject matter is so important that your livelihood depends on it. The quality of your response will reflect this and be far more impactful and better received than just launching your opinion without listening to those of others and gathering an understanding of your surroundings.
- Acknowledge: If you’re engaged in a conversation, acknowledge the other person’s point by saying things like “I understand…” If you’re giving a speech then acknowledge your surroundings, the room, the audience or the people who invited you. Pro speakers normally work in humour with their acknowledgements “you all are looking so lovely I almost forgot my speech,” or “I’m sorry I’m late I nearly missed the building despite the giant neon sign on it.” This “realness” allows you to be more relatable and not so stiff and rigid when presenting, thereby increasing your audience’s approval of you.
- Arrange: Speaking slowly helps to significantly arrange your thoughts so that they come out with intent and purpose. President Obama’s trademark speaking pattern is slow, pre-meditated and carefully thought-out; while you don’t have to speak like the President, the connection of your words to one another to make a cohesive sentence is very powerful. Your audience, even if it’s an audience of 1 will be able to easily understand what you are trying to convey if you build sentences that have meaning without the use of much “uhhhhh” space-fillers. Arranging your thoughts before they come out so that your pauses between your words seem like they are intentional make for a great listening experience and builds your brand as an articulate, confident and effective leader.