Published: 31st August 2020
Speaking effectively in 2020: What you need to do to amp up your communication skills
If you have felt tongue-tied during a virtual conversation, these insights may help you prepare better in future
We’re living in a world where humanity is struggling to beat a virus that has drastically changed our lives in a matter of months. We’re all trying to overcome the crisis together by staying digitally connected, but physically distant. The pandemic has reinforced the importance of being able to communicate our messages impactfully in order to see through the challenges the year 2020 has thrown at us.
Whether it’s setting up regular meetings, allaying concerns of various stakeholders, or staying updated on internal and external matters, these times have shown us the value of effective communication.
Video calls, online presentations, and virtual conferences have become the new normal since most people are working from home. As a result, speaking effectively has become more pertinent than ever. But virtual communication has its own set of challenges. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, an employee, or a student trying to find a job, you need to speak effectively to succeed in this physically distanced world.
The ability to string words together coherently may not seem like a big deal but speaking effectively can be challenging if you add the pressures of the workplace to it. It is even more challenging if you're appearing for a virtual interview, presenting yourself as the ideal candidate. We all know how difficult it can be.
If you have felt tongue-tied during a virtual conversation, these insights may help you prepare better in future:
Focus On Your Content
Every piece of communication should have a purpose and a message. There is always something you want to say, whether it’s telling your colleagues something or trying to convince your boss to promote you. Figure it out—what do you want to highlight? Articulate your thoughts effectively by providing a reason for your statement.
The Three W’s
Before you start speaking, it’s important to keep in mind the three W’s—Why, Who, and What—of communication. Why are you having this conversation? Who are you speaking to? What do you want to communicate?
Before every meeting, presentation, interview, or any other occasion where you need to speak, you should always start by asking these questions to yourself. They’ll help you in communicating your message more effectively.
The use of jargon and technical language creates barriers to communication. You may have heard lawyers discussing a case or doctors talking among themselves about a patient, but not necessarily understood the conversation. Not everyone can understand legal and medical jargon. However, lawyers and doctors regularly interact with their clients who are not from the same profession and are able to convey their points to them by explaining the case, legal or medical, in simple language.
We should avoid using ambiguous words or technical terminology when the audience may not know the terminology. Keep communication clear and appropriate for the target audience.
Tell a Story
Another way to put yourself at ease while speaking to an audience is to create a narrative around your content. Start your presentation or talk with a question, story, or anecdote. This technique is often used by bestselling author and public speaker Malcolm Gladwell. When you start with an anecdote or an example, the audience will focus on the characters and the takeaway, rather than the storyteller. Immediately, you have grabbed their attention by causing them to think: Where are they going with this?
So, there you have it—some useful ways to enhance your communication skills and scale new heights in your life and career. Speaking effectively is the need of the hour in today’s highly competitive digital world, and the one thing that’ll really help besides the above tips is experience. Keep doing as much of it as you can.
(Pramath Raj Sinha is the Founder and Chairman, Harappa Education, Founding Dean of the Indian School of Business (ISB) and the Founder and Trustee of Ashoka University. Views expressed are the authors own)