Good communication is important in almost every part of life. It is especially important in business. In a hierarchical organization like most businesses are, messages can get muddled as they work their way down the chain of management. Information can be misinterpreted as it travels from boardroom to consumers. And a poorly communicated statement from a CEO at an investor’s meeting can cause a severely negative impact on the company.
Business communication can be improved with a little practice, however. Cheril Clarke, who found Phenomenal Speeches has made a career out of helping people communicate better. She is a corporate communications writer, speechwriter and coach for C-suite executives (CEOs, COOs, etc.), entrepreneurs and small business owners. When it comes to communicating better, in business she’s got the following advice:
First, the key is to be conscious of your audience and their needs as it relates to yours. Ask the following three questions before writing anything:
- Who is in the audience?
Knowing the type of audience, you’ll be speaking or writing to allows you to tailor your message in a way that appeals to that particular group. Whether it’s a speech to fellow CEOs or a memo to your department, have an idea of who is in that audience. If you message isn’t related to something they need or want, the communication will be ignored or forgotten.
- What do you want them to feel?
People respond to emotions more than logic. And stories evoke emotions more than numbers or statistics. “Human emotions – that’s what people really connect with and you’re only really going to get that out of excellent stories,” Cheril says. “We still remember a good story before we remember any statistic.”
- What do you want them to do after listening to you?
Whatever you want to audience to do after listening to you will shape the entire presentation. If you want them to do a certain task or buy a certain product, the entire communication should be designed to provoke that action.
But what if you must make a speech instead of writing something down? The first thing to do is research if you need to. Make sure you have the correct and latest information on the topic. Double check the numbers. A little research at the beginning can make you look competent and up to date.
Next, write your speech out. The whole thing, not just an outline. Write your speech the way you would normally talk. Work in humor, if appropriate. Be specific. It’s better to give examples or statistics to support a point than it is to make a vague statement. Use short sentences. It’s likely you’re not going to give your speech word for word anyway. Shorter sentences will be easier to remember.
Now comes the most important part – practice. Cheril says, “There is a difference between practicing a speech and rehearsing one.” Practicing is reading over the speech on a screen or printout. This helps you refine and perfect the written word. However, rehearsing a speech is more active, engaging, and crucial to giving a fantastic speech or presentation. To rehearse, stand up and read the speech just the ay you would at the presentation. Words that may have seemed perfectly fine on paper may sound strange when spoken. Make adjustments where necessary. Stand in front of a mirror or make a video of yourself rehearsing the speech. This can show you mannerisms that might distract from what you are saying. Better yet, rehearse in front of others – friends, family, even strangers at small venues.
Finally, pick your visuals if you are going to use any. Most people have seen the dreaded PowerPoint presentation: the one where the speaker simply reads information off the slides. Do not do this. Only put up visuals that back up what you are saying. Images should be compelling compliments to a story or provide data such as charts or infographics. Make the images memorable ones. Otherwise the visual will be forgettable, or worse, distracting.
Following these steps will improve any business communication or speech. Whatever you are trying to communicate will come through clearer, engage your audience, and make an impact. Be clear, concise, and remember your audience. As Cheril says, “If you know how to communicate well, you can get almost anything that you need.”