99 ways to improve your communication

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image9040829Strong and effective communication skills are critical to your business success.

Here are 99 nuggets on speaking, writing, networking, interviews, and social media  that  you can use to supercharge your business communication skills. Off we go!

1. Believe body language. It doesn’t lie.

2. Remember that every statement or comment does not require a response.

3. Choose your words carefully.

4. Speak and write with clarity.

5. Read whenever possible; it expands your vocabulary.

6. Be aware of your speech patterns and habits, including inflection, pacing and tone of voice.

7. Avoid interrupting people. We’re adults. One voice at a time.

8. Keep slang at home.

9. Stay away from “empty” words such as “Frankly”, “Really,” and “Actually”

10. Prepare an outline when writing a speech, long blog post or article.

11. Focus conversations on other people, not yourself.

12. Weave names into conversations. Everyone’s favorite word is their own name.

13. Use dark backgrounds and light colored fonts for PowerPoint slides.

14. Insert silence and pauses into your speeches and conversations. They are more powerful than words.

15. Diffuse conflicts without technology. Plan a face-to-face meeting or a phone call to resolve issues amicably and quickly.

16. Develop the fine art of charisma. Don’t be a “crap magnet.”

17. Write to express, not to impress.

18. Engage your listener, reader, and audience with material that is clear, concise, and compelling.

19. Ask good questions and you’ll get good information.

20. Listen with your mouth closed.

21.  Use the “P-R-R” method when answering questions: Pause, Reflect, Respond.

22. Greet the janitor and the CEO of the company in the exact same way.

23. Smile and use eye contact. It’s the universal language.

24. Know when to speak up and know when to shut up.

25. Follow the 5 P’s: Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance (public speaking).

26. Respond to controversial or off-color comments with these three words, “Isn’t that interesting?” Then smile. It’s a neutral statement and dead-ends virtually all conversations. In a pleasant way, of course.

27. Improve your communication skills by observing positive role models you admire and respect.

28. Show value when reciting your “elevator speech.” Focus on the results you get for clients, not your job title.

29. Speak from the heart.

30. Follow a written agenda in meetings to save time and stay on task.

31. Make all important phone calls before noon.

32. Ask for the sale, then be quiet.

33. Walk the walk and talk the talk. Be congruent.

34. Stay away from industry jargon and rhetoric that can confuse people outside of your field.

35. Identify where your ideal clients hang out and go there (this is true for bricks and mortar and social media)

36.  Avoid writing emails and making phone calls when you are angry or frustrated.

37. Write your blogs consistently so people can gain insight into your expertise, experiences, and personality.

38. Learn Emotional Intelligence (empathy, self-awareness, and teamwork) to improve your  communication skills.

39. Understand the importance of self-promotion and personal branding.

40. Walk into a room tall, strong, and proud.

41. Look for similarities, not differences. This bridges communication gaps.

42.  Listen to what is not being said.

43. Avoid criticizing, complaining, and judging.

44. Record yourself on audio or video to hear and see how you move and behave.

45. Answer the phone standing up and smiling.

46. Look in the mirror before you go into a meeting.

47. Give all of your attention to the person who is speaking. Avoid distractions and “darting eyes.”

48.  Turn off your technology when at a professional business meeting or event.

49. Avoid excessive and distracting clothing patterns, jewelry, make-up, and accessories- especially when you are the speaker, tv guest, or recording a video segment.

50. Be relevant and memorable.

51. Use gestures to empasize your spoken words.

52. Follow the leader. If he speaks fast, you speak fast. If he is slow, you should be slow.

53. Connect with people by being authentic and genuine.

54. Stay on message.

55. Dress like the person you aspire to be.

56. Build rapport with people.

57. Keep your jacket open. A closed jacket sends a nonverbal sign that you may be hiding something.

58. Have a good handshake. Practice with someone you trust and get their feedback.

59. Thank someone when they offer a compliment (don’t argue!)

60. Save political, religious, sex, and other controversial jokes or stories for outside of your  professional circles.

61. Respect the personal space of others.

62. Avoid planning your answer in your head when someone is speaking. Pay close attention to what they are saying and then respond.

63. Write with bullet points and white space so your information is “reader-friendly.”

64. Have a powerful opening and closing in your presentations, speeches, articles, and blog posts.

65. Highlight benefits, not features, in your marketing and sales materials.

66. Create videos that are 1-3 minutes in length and are punchy, engaging, and valuable.

67. Write tweets of less than 125 characters; leaving space for people to retweet and spread your message.

68. Connect with people’s emotions by using real-life examples and sharing stories.

69. Avoid keeping your reading glasses on and “looking down your nose” when speaking to others.

70. Emphasize important words or phrases by lowering or raising your voice, or slowing down.

71. Exude positive energy in both your written and spoken words.

72. Understand the importance of making small talk.

73. Avoid biting your lip and inside cheek when speaking to someone (signals anxiety or nervousness)

74. Project your voice with authority.

75. Use smiles as positive reinforcements.

76. Express gratitude.

77. Re-read, and if necessary, rewrite everything before you send it, speak it , or share it.

78. Maintain eye contact, but not at a level that can make someone feel uncomfortable.

79. Keep your palms open when you ask questions, which indicates you are open-minded and welcoming.

80. Recognize when it’s appropriate to use a “social hug” to greet someone.

81. Avoid the word “stuff.” It’s vague and unprofessional. Be specific.

82.Write an article for your e-zine or newsletter that  includes interesting quotes and statistics.

83. Drink alcohol on your personal time.

84. Steer conversations to positive topics.

85. Dress appropriately for tv interviews and videos by finding out about the background colors, lighting, and set design.

86. Have a mission or value statement that has repeatability so others can communicate it for you.

87. Use your body language to your advantage when delivering a speech. Don’t hide behind the podium.

88. Watch for cultural differences in communication styles.

89. Remember that enthusiasm is contagious.

90. Point your feet away from someone if you want to leave the conversation.

91. Respond to comments on your blog or website so it’s interactive and engaging.

92. Leave your personal life outside of business conversations.

93. Show respect and spare people’s feelings. Don’t blame or insult anyone.

94. Delete the word “just” from your vocabulary. It’s belittling. You are not “Just an accountant” or “Just a recruiter.” You are an accountant. You are a recruiter. Be proud.

95. Stop over-apologizing. You’re not responsible for the poor service, rain, or world peace.

96. Resist the temptation to finish other people’s sentences.

97. Open your eyes, ears, and heart to new messages and people.

98. Be the fountain, not the drain.

99. Stand up if everyone around is standing and sit down if everyone is seated. Be on a level playing field.

If you want to master the art of business communication, I invite you to sign up for my free 21-day video series, “Speaking of Communication.” You’ll receive a wealth of information on PR, social media, interpersonal communication, sales, and leadership.

14 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for sharing these essentials in communicating verbally and non-verbally.  This is a timely reminder and confirmation of how important it is to be effective in your communications.

  2. Hi Susan, I am sorry for sharing my thoughts. Since it is a very busy world, people want and expect something to be short and time saving. It will be very awesome if you can divide this in “Five Parts” so that people will visit to read the posts. Giving them more curiosity, what will be in the next part!

    Thanks

    jovita

  3. My only quibble is regarding the powerpoint text/background color suggestion.  If your audience is older then white text on dark background can be very hard to read.  In fact, I’ve always heard to use the opposite color suggestion, so dark text on a light background.  Could you tell me the reasoning behind the white text on a dark background?

  4. Thanks for the this treasure trove of info–I also have an issue with the PowerPoint color suggestion (but I’m also not a fan of PP, either).  Many thanks–

  5. Hi Kathy,

    You can sign up for my free 21-day video series on my site,  http://www.getinfrontcommunications.com/ 

    The opt-in box is on the top right side. I also invite you to take a peek at my new Kindle book. It’s also on my website (top right). It’s titled, The Badass Book of Social Media and Business Communication.

    Thanks for connecting here on Project Eve!

    Susan

  6. On the PowerPoint opinions, I stand by my dark background, light colored font for text, but I know people have preferences as far as their own eyesight, vision, etc. My years of wearing tinted glasses have brought on some color issues for me! 

    With that said, I am moving away from PowerPoint, and have started using Prezi. Is anyone else using this presentation tool? Curious to know your thoughts.

    Susan

  7. Haven’t used it, but it looks like it’s full of rich add-ons.  

    Susan, your new book looks really wonderful, but is it only available on Kindle?  Thanks!

    Best,

    Kathy

  8. Hi Susan. Just saw this. Quite an impressive list covering a wide variety of issues. I am a linguist with comments on a few things but I’ll just focus on #7 about not interrupting. I agree not to interrupt but not only is it often appropriate to speak simultaneously, it is even expected. People show listening, understanding and agreement with “backchanneling.” This is when you use those little words while listening to another speak: mm hmm, really?, you’re kidding! etc. These discourse markers, however, can only occur at the end of thought units (In Conversation Analysis called turn construction units, or TCUs). If they are uttered at the wrong moment, they will have the opposite effect and show that you are not listening. Native speakers, however, do this all without thinking but they should not try to stop. It will damage their relationships. So don’t interrupt but do speak simultaneously when you backchannel. This is an important distinction.