If you’re a beginner when it comes to communication skills, you probably look around at celebrities, superstars, and people in your industry and wonder how they are so composed, compelling, and confident. You think they are natural-born communicators, but let me tell you that everybody is scared and nervous when it comes to spoken communication, such as giving speeches, presentations, or interviews. I train the presidents of countries, leaders, and CEOs, and all of them confessed that they think they’re not very good speakers. They weren’t a natural communicator.
So, if you’re uncomfortable with the idea of giving a speech, that’s not because you are not a good communicator. The reason you’re uncomfortable is no one’s trained you on your communication skills. Sure, you may have had training on how to write. You can write an email, resume, or memo, but you haven’t been trained on the most important communication skills- spoken communication skills.
That’s what this article is all about. We’re going to get you to the point where you’re comfortable, confident, and relaxed when communicating with someone. You’ll learn how to get better at communication when it comes to giving presentations, interviews, speeches, or talking to the media.
Be Clear on Your Goals
When you’re a beginner trying to figure out how to communicate, one of the hardest things to do is to think, where do I even start? You might feel the temptation of running around your office or home workspace to gather more information, research, PowerPoint slides, etc. However, that shouldn’t be your first step.
Any time you’re trying to communicate, whether it’s communicating in a job interview, a presentation to five staff members, or an important presentation to a thousand big prospects, you should ask yourself what is the one thing you want your audience to do after you have communicated with them. That’s the starting point, and you should be able to write this down in one sentence.
Figure Out Your Most Important Messages
After you’ve figured out what you want your audience to do, it’s time to go into research mode. Brainstorm. Dig. Look everywhere for messages, facts, numbers that will motivate your audience to do what you want. However, you don’t have to educate them on everything you do unless you’re a professor giving a college lecture. The people you’re speaking to in the business world, the government world, or the adult non-academic world are not there to learn every single thing about what you do. You’ve got to restrict yourself and limit yourself to what is truly most important.
You can brainstorm thousands of messages, numbers, or facts, but you have to use your judgment to figure out the important messages. Many people are bad communicators because they don’t use judgment and try to tell everything. Remember, if your audience had to know everything, they’d already have your job. So, look at all the data and figure out which facts, messages, or numbers your audience has to know. Especially to take the actions you want, which messages are going to motivate them to take your desired action?
Narrow Down Your Messages
After you’ve figured out your most important messages, it’s time to narrow them down. You may come up with 15 messages that are important and would possibly motivate your audience to do what you want. However, you have to further narrow down and prioritize the top five messages.
Why five? Based on my empirical evidence from working with more than 10000 clients over the last 30 years, I’ve concluded that people don’t remember more than five messages. I ask people to think of the best presenters they’ve seen in the last year in their business or maybe their whole career. I ask them to tell me every message they remember from their speeches or interviews. Quite often, the answer is “nothing”. Sometimes it’s one message. Sometimes it’s two, occasionally three, and every three months or so, somebody will remember four messages from a great speaker. Roughly somebody will remember five messages from the best speakers they’ve seen, possibly in their whole life. In all the years I’ve asked this question, I’ve never had anyone remember more than five ideas.
So don’t try to communicate every single fact. Don’t have one of those PowerPoint slides with twenty-seven bullet points. It’s not going to work. You want to be a successful communicator and be seen as someone who has strong communication skills. Remember, it’s not communication if it comes out of your mouth or is up on a slide. It’s communication if it comes out of your mouth in the ear of an audience member, and they understand and remember it so they can act on it. If you want to achieve this, you have to narrow down your messages to a maximum of five.
Strengthen Your Messages with Stories
Human beings are hard-wired to tell and remember stories, not facts and bullet points. That’s why great communicator always uses stories in their speeches, presentations, and interviews to illustrate the messages that are important to them.
If you’re a beginner, then telling stories can be helpful to position yourself as a great communicator. It’s not just telling a funny story or joke, but something that will help your audience remember your messages. Have a real story for each of your five messages.
Tell relevant, interesting stories that will make your messages come alive. The story you tell should have certain elements i.e., settings, characters, emotions, a problem, a little dialogue, and a resolution with the point to it. That’s all, and it will take less than a minute to reinforce your messages and make your audience remember them.
Use a Cheat Sheet
You may be wondering that if you’re nervous or uncomfortable while giving a presentation, how will you remember what to say? You can cheat this with a cheat sheet. Having a cheat sheet is amazingly effective, and it will help you give the impression that you’re confident, authoritative, and not just a beginner.
I never give any speech without a single sheet of paper in a large font, so I can look at it without having to put my glasses on or bend down. Just a single sheet of paper with your main messages/ideas in bullet points in large font so you don’t have to turn the pages or pick it up. It’s a simple little thing.