Building confidence in communication and presentation to anyone, anywhere, and anytime is key to a successful journey towards excellence.
Dr John Maxwell wrote in one of his leadership books: “many communicate, few connect”. Connectivity is the reason why people communicate and every conversation is a means to help us get our message across in the way it was intended to be conveyed. We communicate to share information, transfer knowledge, and do so through our emotions, facial expressions, speech, and body language.
This begs the question: how then do we ensure maximum
connectivity and clarity in communication? It is one thing to have a voice, and quite another to have a voice that is impactful and able to influence change. Yet, many struggle to achieve this, whether professionally or socially. The ability to influence and create an impact through communication is an essential skill for everyone regardless of the situation or environment you find yourself in. Without possessing the confidence, structure, and presence to deliver a message, we run the risk of mis-communicating, confusing, and distorting it.
In the V.A.M.P. (video, audio, message, passion in presentation) approach, I offer four points to help build and strengthen communication and presentation skills:
Showing up is a form of communication; in fact, the beginning of communication. People can form an impression of you simply by observing whether you bother showing up on time. The way you enter a room, walk, stand, look, and greet others, and where and how you place your arms and hands, all communicate your presence.
People are likely to avoid you if as a leader, you walk into the office with a deadpan expression without greeting anyone along the way. Your disposition would have communicated a “leave me alone” or “I am not in the mood” vibe. Try the friendlier and opposite approach and you will immediately see a difference in the way others respond. We call this ‘mirroring’ in Neurolinguistic Programming Communication or “monkey-see-monkey-do” as the popular saying goes.
The way you dress is important too. Dressing appropriately for the occasion is a way of communicating your self-respect and respect for the person you are meeting, and the event you are attending. Arriving under-or overdressed is inexcusable especially when there is an abundance of information on event-appropriate dress codes to be found on the Internet. A little extra effort can go a long way.
At this point, you are ready visually and reasonably confident that your audience should form a good impression of you. But will their impressions change the minute you start talking?
All of us would have encountered poor communicators: individuals who speak in high and sharp voices, people who speak too fast/slow, too loud/soft, or talk non-stop. Some people do not pause to listen, while others swallow or mumble their words. Now compare this with someone who speaks with confidence—clearly articulating what they say and at the right pitch, tone, and pace. They pause at the right time to check for your reaction and feedback. What are the chances of you communicating more with the latter than the former?
Besides improving the way you speak, it is just as important to learn how to listen. Unfortunately, listening is a skill which many fail to practise since people generally like to talk about themselves when given the chance.
For a conversation to be effective, one needs to learn the skill of questioning. We need questioning techniques to lead, pause, and sustain a conversation. Otherwise, you will encounter awkward moments of silence. Every question elicits a response. The way you articulate and sound the question can and will affect the answers given. Even silence communicates.
Studies have shown that people see you (55 per cent) and hear you (38 per cent) way before they pay any attention to what you have to say (seven per cent). Therefore, it is important to have content that engages. To command your audience’s attention, answer the following questions:
• What is the message?
• Why is the message important?
• Who is the message for?
• How transparent is the message?
• When and where should the message be delivered?
People resonate with content that is relevant to them. Helpful information that improves their physical, mental, financial, or intellectual wellbeing will most certainly command their attention.
When communicating, always ensure that the content focusses on your audience and not on yourself. If you are a salesperson, avoid talking about yourself and the features and benefits of your product, but focus on your clients’ interest(s) and how you can help them improve their life and business. If you are a leader speaking to your employees, focus on their wellbeing and the company’s commitment to nurture talent through coaching, mentoring, and sponsorship in addition to sharing corporate goals and strategies for profitable growth.
Everybody loves a good inspirational, success story that gets people thinking hard and feeling deeply. It instils hope, shows the way forward, and nurtures aspirations. Understanding the reasons behind your message, ensuring that it is relatable to your audience, focussing on their needs, and inspiring growth aspirations are keys to a strong message that warrants attention.
Passion in Presentation
Communicating through visual, audio, and message is still not enough. Your audience can see right through you if your communication is merely an act to procure their buy-in. A communication or presentation that lacks passion can seem contrived and unnatural. You will never be able to communicate with true passion if you do not believe in your own product or message.
To convince and connect with your audience, you must be true to yourself, ensure that the subject matter is close to your heart, and deliver your message with passion.
Establish your own presentation materials (wherever possible) instead of reading off someone else’s. This is because you will want to trust, believe, and have firsthand information and complete control over the flow of your presentation and how you communicate your points across.
Be mindful of the colours used when preparing your presentation. A correct use of colours can augment the delivery of your message and convey and express the right emotions. Here are some examples of colours and what they represent:
Red : Power, passion, aggression, violence
Blue : Peace, loyalty, trust, tranquility
Yellow : Happiness, sunshine, optimism, caution
Green : Nature, soothing, affluence, greed
Purple : Royalty, creativity, magic, supernatural
Orange : Warmth, energy, excitement, fire
Pink : Femininity, floral, love, tranquillising
With the V.A.M.P. approach, you will be able to build and strengthen your communication and presentation skills for greater efficacy.
First published on Today’s Manager Magazine / Copyright © 2019 Singapore Institute of Management