How to Build Effective Communication Skills

June 3, 2016 - SOPHIE THOMPSON

Effective communication skills are essential to success in the 21st century. There are many different aspects associated with communication – in this guide we focus on 4 key topics: Mind, Body, Voice and Breath.

The Power of the Mind

Often we talk while we think. This reduces our credibility as what we are saying is usually meaningless. We also come across as nervous. So much of presence is about stillness, listening and thoughtful response. When answering questions and during conversation, keep the following formula in mind and answer in a short, clear and concise way:

  • Think
  • Breathe
  • Speak

When speaking, understand exactly what message you are trying to get across. If you are unclear about your message, your audience will have no chance.

Positive visualisation

This tactic is employed by athletes before a race, they visualise themselves winning and focus on this idea intensely. This gives them a mental boost which translates into a physical one. You can use this technique before a big presentation – imagine standing on a podium in front of hundreds of people, imagine delivering your speech and the audience looking engaged, imagine finishing up your speech and the audience applause. Repeating this several times, immersing yourself in the event and emotions, will build effective communication skills.

Don’t speak for no reason. Think before you speak and deliver your message in a precise way.


Body Language & Posture

Your posture has the greatest impact on your communication. The impression you have on others is split:

  • Body (visuals) 55%
  • Voice (sound) 38%
  • Words (content) 7%

Folded arms, crossed legs, hunched shoulders, hands in pockets, looking down – these are just some of the protective measures that make us feel safer, and should be avoided when giving a presentation or speech. Appearing relaxed makes us exert dominance and authority.

If you watch politicians speak, notice how relaxed and confident they appear, talking slowly and making positive body movements. Use your arms to emphasis a point and illustrate the message.

Visual Rapport – Things to Consider

From top down: head, eyes, expressions, shoulders, posture, breathing, energy, arms, hands, gestures, movements, stance, legs and feet.


Using the Full Range of your Voice

The human voice is capable of 24 notes on a musical scale. We use about three of these in everyday speech. Think about this next time you speak, as using a wider range will allow you to quickly develop effective communication skills. This will help enthuse, persuade and excite the person or people you are talking to.

Sound resonates in the mouth once your breath has delivered air to the vocal chords. Your tongue manipulates and shapes the sound, giving us speech, pitch and tone. The more air in your lungs, the better the sounds resonate, giving us a wider range of audible voice. Most of us use less than a third of our vocal capacity and the reason is usually because we do not use our breath as well as we could.

To further understand how to use your voice, read the Toastmasters Speaking Voice Guide.


Breathe Deeply to Communicate Effectively

Every time you think, you breathe. Every time you speak, you breathe. The fact that we breathe subconsciously, means we often don’t think about it when speaking. When we get nervous our breathing becomes shallow. Combine this with overlong sentences, which usually accompany speaking in public, and words begin to trail away at the end.

Maximising your breath and filling your lungs when speaking is very important for building effective communication skills. It makes you sound influential.

Remember to pause for emphasis, pause to take in a breath and pause to allow your message to sink in.

Communicate effectively to become a successful person

Follow these rules and prepare to persuade, entertain and inform the right people.

8 Rules for Effective Communication Skills

  1. Think about both your content and your audience. Is your speech suitable?
  2. Understand the core message you are trying to get across and the three points you want your audience taking away with them
  3. Have an overview of your speech in mind before spending time on details
  4. Have a clear presentation structure and show it repeatedly to your audience so they know which section they are on and how long left
  5. Rehearse aloud. Record your voice and present to friends (if possible) to get feedback
  6. Try and keep your speech simple, focus on only a few points and explain them clearly
  7. Be enthusiastic, move around the stage and use body language to convey confidence
  8. Make a list of possible questions and rehearse answers for them