Good communicators have good careers
Communication skills are definitely among the most overlooked soft skills in the professional and corporate world.
We all know and look up to great communicators when they deliver a winning pitch, an inspiring presentation, or create connections through meaningful conversation.
The reality is that many professionals know what a good communicator is. They also often know in which areas they should improve to become a great communicator. They even know opportunities they are missing out on because they don’t dare to speak up.
And you can’t blame them. My generation, I was born 1980, didn’t really get the opportunity to learn presentation skills and public speaking in school.
Companies, at least the great ones, do send teams, or rising stars, to one-day communication workshops, perhaps once every five to 10 years.
However, if it takes between 1,000 and 10,000 hours to gain mastery of a subject, and you get an eigh- hour training session every decade, it’s easy to see that this amount of training is far from enough.
US billionaire investor Warren Buffet is a strong advocate for what improvements in this area can do: “You can improve your value by 50 percent just by learning communication skills — public speaking.”
If you are able to speak publicly in front of an audience, you can spread your, or your firm’s, message among a wider audience and raise your profile.
Engaging your company’s board with an outstanding presentation, will put you in a better position for promotion.
If you are able to get your clients, your team, or the people around, you are excited through powerful communication that gives you the ability to motivate, inspire and attract.
But how do you develop outstanding communication skills?
There is a methodology that is worth taking a closer look at — Learn, test and refine, or LTR.
Learning is key. This means investing the time to find out what tricks, tools and strategies a good communicator uses. Discovering your natural communication strengths, or superpowers as I call them, and learning which areas need improving. You can do this by joining public speaking clubs such as Toastmasters, taking acting classes, or by signing up to take part in a communications workshop.
And just to make this clear — learning doesn’t stop after the educational part ends. It continues by analyzing outstanding observing speakers, and incorporating their good points into your own communication. But also identifying what is going wrong when sitting through a poor presentation.
It might be useful to read up on the Japanese business philosophy of Kaizen — continuous improvement.
The second step is to test the ideas and approaches you learned in the field. This is tough, because you have to step out of your comfort zone to improve your body language and tone of voice. You have to push yourself to invest more time in preparation and practice, and you have to be brave to develop your own presentation style. Authentic communication will allow you to stand out from your colleagues.
Lastly, it is about refining. You can’t stand still, you should consider yourself a lifelong student of communications. Stay open to different approaches, experiment with your content and explore new technologies. Strive to always deliver engaging and winning speeches and presentations.
Follow these three steps and you will develop great communication skills that help you drive further in your career and reach your goals.
• Flo Akinbiyi is a presenter, public speaker and communications coach.