3 Questions To Drastically Improve Your Communication
In today’s world of mass media and communication, writing and speaking skills are such critical tools in a leader’s toolkit that they are often what sets them apart from their peers and improves their chances for advancement.
For leaders to be effective in today’s culture, their communication not only has to be accurate (because people can be googling their facts during their message) and attractive (because the images and pictures of them and their church/organization will be tweeted and instagrammed), but it also has to be constantly improving.
Here are three questions that the best leaders today are asking themselves to improve their communication practices:
1. What are the current needs of my audience?
- Do you have a clear pulse on the heartbeat of the needs of your congregation? If not, who can you partner with to help you gain access to these vital signs?
- It helps to have a clear understanding of the demographics of your audience, but what are their values?
- What is the average educational level of the group?
- Is the setting traditional or casual?
- Is the presentation topical or expository in nature?
- Is it appropriate to talk about current events or other hot topics? For church leaders, their church members often have questions as to how the Bible addresses certain issues. Don’t let your silence speak for you. Confront burning questions head on and help your audience draw conclusions for themselves. Avoidance of these issues can lead to anxiety and mistrust.
- The person on the receiving end of your message needs to know “What are you asking of me?” They must be able to clearly answer the question, “What is my next step?”
- Will religious or theological terminology be distracting or engaging?
2. How can I make my point through multiple avenues?
Retention is key. According to National Center for Biotechnology Information, the average person’s attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013. That is one second less than a goldfish! Most messages require redundancy and repetition, so define your objective early on and always draw the audience’s attention back to it. Tell them what you are going to say, say it, and then tell them what you just said. This is Communicating 101. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Utilize the power of story. Most people process information better in narrative form. It grabs hold of their attention longer and helps to break down complex ideas in a relatable medium.
- Technology and visual aids
Consider leveraging technology to your advantage. Use graphics and/or videos to help illustrate major points in your communication. Images are powerful and catch our attention, but never let your message get lost in the weeds of too many details. One single image can be, as they say, worth a thousand words.
3. How can I improve?
It is often the small details of effective communication that go un-noticed but have the most significant impact.
- It can’t be said enough that practice makes perfect. A well known theory suggest that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to make you an expert. Great speakers, just like professional athletes, put in a significant amount of time off the stage getting ready for their big moment. This is what separates the good from the great.
- Pace is key for speaking, so make sure you are speaking slowly and clearly, giving time for the audience to digest what you are saying. Consider having a bottle of water nearby. You will not only stay hydrated but also will create a natural pause for your audience to think or contemplate.
- Look people in the eye and speak to your audience one-on-one. Never speak to a screen, podium, pulpit, back wall, or flip chart.
- Don’t be afraid of silence. A dramatic pause often has great impact.
- Smile and be expressive when you speak. Be aware of your body language. The audience will typically match your energy. If their energy declines, it is your responsibility to bring it back up.
- Lastly, a rush of adrenaline before you speak can cause anxiety and stress. So relax and pace yourself. Rumor has it that eating a banana before you address a group is a natural way to absorb the excess adrenaline in your body. One study showed that some musicians often do this 30 minutes before a show to combat stage fright.
Anyone can get up and talk in front of people, but it takes a skilled practitioner to communicate effectively and speak to people’s hearts. Your preparation time off stage is worth the investment, as lives can be changed when we learn to maximize our gifts and fan them into flame.
How are you learning to address the current needs of your audience? In what ways has technology helped you to be a better communicator? What pitfalls have you run into in using technology in your messages? What other ideas do you have to share to help others improve their communication skills?
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