Everybody has some tip or trick for how to become a better communicator. Take a class. Join an organization like Toastmasters. Speak more often. Set up some sort of strategy when attending a networking event. All those tips and tricks are beneficial – they usually work – but I think the heart of being a better communicator is found in being a better listener.
Listening is hard work. Anybody can “hear” what another person is saying but actually “listening” to that person is difficult. If listening were easy, the saying “in one ear and out the other” wouldn’t exist. Listening, active listening, requires a person to be present and to be engaged. How does that work when a person is focusing on being a better communicator?
- First, listen to yourself. Record yourself speaking. Begin to note the areas where you stumble. Try to analyze why you’re stumbling. Is it nerves? A lack of preparation? Both can be countered, although nerves may be the more problematic one.
- Second, listen to your audience. This step is two-fold. You have to listen to what your audience says as well as what they don’t say, i.e., their body language. Do people in the audience ask questions during the question-and-answer portion of your speech? Do they give you feedback following your speech? Is that feedback in agreement with their tone and body language? What do people do while you’re speaking? It can be hard to evaluate what they’re doing in today’s age; a person could be texting or tweeting, but he or she could be taking notes. Even so, it’s still a good idea to attempt to understand what people are doing and how they’re responding while you’re speaking.
- Third, measure results. If you desire to become a better communicator because you want to increase leads or revenue or to gain access to other speaking engagements, you need to measure your efforts. Use the tools you have available to you even if that means using an Excel spreadsheet. Also record which speeches have the most impact. Don’t become too tied to those topics, particularly if you’re speaking about popular topics, but keep those topics in mind when preparing subsequent speeches or talks.
What tips do you have for becoming a better communicator? Do you think listening is one of the most important things you can do as a communicator? Why or why not?