One of the unexpected parts of my job as a chaplain is telling stories. People sometimes try to repeat my stories but find that they don’t “work”. The problem is that they have failed to grasp the basics of effective communication. The fact is, poor communication is the real cause of many of the frustrations we all face in daily life – even in the military! The challenge is for all of us to lift our game in how we communicate, especially those of us who are leaders, that includes NCO’s and officers. But, where do you start? If you have been asked to give a presentation here are ten things to consider:
- Know what you are trying to communicate! Do your homework, and in the early stage check up that you clearly understand what is required of you and the time limits you are working within. I then try to summarise what I am trying to say and what response I am expecting in just one sentence.
- Develop an outline! This must be clear so that your listeners can follow it and see the logical steps between points. The shorter the presentation the more preparation required, thus for a 5 minute talk I will usually write it out word for word, so I can be confident that I have covered all the material in the time allotted.
- Look at your audience! Make eye contact because that will help them to connect with you. The bigger the audience the harder it is, but it is essential to effective communication.
- Share yourself! Tell a story or a joke that says something about you and your interests. That will help your audience to feel at ease and help you to develop credibility as a real person.
- Identify with your audience! Show them that you like them, and that you want to be there and understand their situation. Be honest about the limitations of what you are presenting, and maybe the need for further work and the importance of their input.
- Illustrate the application! I find that the best way is to tell a story that will help people to see the impact of doing or not doing what I am trying to teach, but telling stories should probably be reserved for another ponderings!
- Get feedback! Involve your audience in providing at least some form of response to what you are presenting, proving that they are not asleep. If that feedback says that they are not with you, don’t just plough on go back and clarify.
- More is not always better! The pitfall of many new public speakers in to try to say it all on the first occasion, so beware of overloading people with too much information. Keep going back to the specifics of what you are trying to communicate at point.
- Be authentic and passionate! Speak from your heart and show that you really believe what you are sharing. If you are not excited about this information then how can you expect the receivers to do anything with it.
- Evaluate! Get some specific feedback from your supervisor or a trusted colleague so that you can improve your technique and fine tune your presentation so that you can become a more effective communicator.
I have to admit that being an effective communicator is hard work. I have suffered all too many presentations that are less than effective and threatened to put me to sleep! Don’t allow yourself to slip into that rut, apply these ten steps and become a more effective communicator.
Chaplain Ian Whitley