How to Improve your Communication Skills

Updated December 28, 2018 - Sophie Thompson

Strong communication skills have become essential in almost all aspects of life. With constant meetings, presentations, emails, conferences and networking events, being able to communicate clearly and concisely has become one of the most important skills you can improve.

Effective communication skills are important to many aspects of your life and career, including:

  • Being hired for a new job
  • Working with clients and customers
  • Working with teams, both internal and external
  • Leading people
  • Establishing relationships
  • Securing new business at networking events

In this article, we discuss how to improve your communication skills using the Learn – Practice – Improve methodology.

Learn communication skills

In order to improve, you first have to learn the communication fundamentals. There are many great resources to learn insights, tips and advice - here’s a selection of the most popular.

1. Online courses

  • Improving Communication Skills - You'll learn how to discover if someone is lying, how to develop trust, the best method of communication for negotiation, and how to apologize. You'll also learn when to cooperate and when to compete, how to create persuasive messages, ask thoughtful questions, engage in active listening, and choose the right medium for your messages.
  • Essential Public Speaking – Learn all the fundamentals of public speaking and communication skills, from building rapport to influencing to asking the right questions. Practice these techniques afterward in realistic virtual reality environments.
  • Business Communications - Sharpen your writing, presentation, and interpersonal communication skills to help you succeed in the business world. You will learn strategies for honing your communication style, improving clarity, conciseness and impact.

2. YouTube tutorials

3. Books

  • TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking - this book explains how powerful public speaking is achieved, and equips you to give it your best shot. There is no set formula; no two talks should be the same. The goal is for you to give the talk that only you can give.
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People – a classic book on how to make people like you, change people to your way of thinking, negotiate without causing resentment and more topics are covered.
  • The Art of Public Speaking – this book covers classical and contemporary speaking theory, including practical applications relating to public speaking.

4. Blogs and articles

  • MindTools – learn about a wide range of communication skills, from giving feedback to negotiating with a customer, in detailed, well thought out articles.
  • VirtualSpeech – in-depth articles on how to improve communication skills and how virtual reality and be used to practice these skills.
  • SkillsYouNeed – detailed articles with plenty of examples and exercises to ensure you are learning actively.

Practice communication skills

When you’ve learnt the fundamentals of how to communicate, you’ll need to practice in order to develop the skill further. Below we’ve listed traditional and new methods of practicing your communication skills.

1. Training days and seminars

These are of course highly dependent on location. We’ve listed a few popular ones to give you a flavour of the content, cost and time associated with them.

  • Advanced Public Speaking Course - highly interactive training that provides individuals with many opportunities to practice. This includes feedback for each individual speaker, which is interspersed with short presentations on advanced concepts of public speaking and communication.
  • Communication Skills Course - This one-day communication skills course provides an insight into the way communication works. It's a practical day, filled with exercises, games and discussion. You'll practise ways to handle difficult or tricky situations, body language, empathy and more.
  • Magnetic Delivery Boot Camp - Master your delivery skills and increase your confidence. Surprise your colleagues the next time you present with your improved speaking skills and confidence.

2. Coaching

3. Virtual reality

Virtual reality (VR) lets you practice different communication techniques in realistic environments from the comfort of your own home. It’s a great middle ground between an online course and in-person coaching.

  • VirtualSpeech app – practice your public speaking, interview preparation, business networking, language learning, sales and more in virtual simulations. Speech analysis technology provides instant feedback on your speech or conversation.
VR used in a presentation at a meeting

VR being used to practice a presentation in a realistic way.

4. Friends or colleagues

This is a great way to get detailed feedback on how you are performing. Set yourself a task and ask your colleague or friend to observe you and then give you feedback. Giving and receiving feedback is a powerful process but needs to be handled sensitively and should follow these guidelines:

  • Be specific on what needs to improve
  • Provide evidence on where they can change
  • Give feedback on any emotional impact you felt
  • Be constructive, provide 3 positives and 2 areas to improve
  • Listen and don’t interrupt
  • Act on the feedback straight away if possible

5. Solo with a video camera or voice recorder

By using a video camera or voice recorder you can work on your communication style. Work with short sections - for example if you need to make a presentation, start by working on your opening. Perform and watch / listen back a number of times until you feel you have developed what you have done sufficiently to move on.

In this method of working you alternate the role of subject and observer. When you are observing yourself, clarify any feedback by writing down what you are developing or changing. This will help you chart your progress as well as structuring your development.

Improve communication skills

With plenty of practice, you’ll notice significant improvements in how you speak and communicate with others:

  • Your confidence around other people will grow
  • People will pay more attention to what you’re saying
  • You’ll be able to explain complex ideas and processes more clearly
  • You’ll find it easier to communicate with people around the world in different cultures and with different ethnic backgrounds