Learn, Practice and Improve Methodology for Communication Skills

October 31, 2017 - SOPHIE THOMPSON

You must communicate effectively to be successful in today’s business world. Countless meetings, presentations, conferences and networking events mean that clear and assertive communication are more important than ever. They can be the difference between getting a promotion or moving laterally, selling your product or struggling with slow growth, influencing colleagues with your idea or doing what you are told.

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

  • For management - how do you command respect for your leaders while fostering team spirit? How do you deal with an unexpected crisis and remain calm and reassuring? Communication skills are essential for many areas of management.
  • Success in your job – you’ll be talking to clients, customers, requesting information, discussing problems and working in teams. All require strong communication skills and as the workplace becomes more global, you’ll need to consider how to communication across different cultures.
  • Secure a new job – in employer surveys, communication skills consistently rank amongst the top soft skills hiring managers are looking for. They want new employees to be able to listen, and speaking clearly, concisely and confidently.
  • Advance your career – employees want someone who is committed to the company and can add value by improving the business. It’s important to be able to communicate your thoughts on how the processes, products or services can be improved.

We’ll now discuss actionable steps for how to improve this essential skill using the 'Learn – Practice - Improve' methodology.


Learn

In order to improve, you have to first learn the communication fundamentals. There are several great resources to learn insights, tips and advice from - here are 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

After learning how to communicate, you’ll need to practice what you’ve learnt in order to develop your skills. We’ve listed both traditional and new methods you can use to practice 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.
  • Speech Centre VR – public speaking training app with several in-app courses covering a variety of communication topics. A wide range of virtual rooms to practice in.

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

With plenty of practice, you’ll notice significant improvements in how you speak and communicate with others. Your confidence around other people will grow, you’ll find people paying more attention to what you’re saying, you’ll be able to explain complex ideas and processes more clearly and you’ll find it easier to communicate with people around the world in different cultures and with different ethnic backgrounds.