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Communication in business
Effective communication in business is not about creating the perfect PowerPoint presentation. It's not about writing the perfectly-pitched report. It's not even about assiduously alliterating <smile>.
Sometimes effectively communicating in business can hinge on something really simple—the habits you bring to your interactions with others.
As we all know, we all have habitual behaviours that we carry around with us and use unconsciously. It could be the "um" you sandwich between every fourth word of your presentation. It could be the nervous 'fig-leaf' gestures of your hands. It could be your constant swaying and looking away from your audience, as if you should be somewhere else far more important right at that moment.
Whoever you are, whilst you may know your facts inside-out, whilst your work ethic is the standard by which others are measured, if you don't recognise and work on your personal presentation habits you might eventually destroy all that you have strived so hard to achieve.
Whatever your particular habit is, you can best find out what it is by two great methods:
Ask your colleagues what you do in face-to-face encounters that annoys them
Have someone video a presentation to a group that you give
We all have a communication habit that works against us in some small way. But the challenge we face is that, left unattended, they start adding up. The more you have, the more unprofessional you look.
Here's eight interpersonal communication blunders that can wreck your career over time:
Owning a weak handshake: A weak handshake signals uncertainty, hesitation, a lack of integrity, a lack of confidence and a lack of courage. It quite possibly also triggers subconscious responses in the recipient that cause them to focus more and for longer on your handshake than on your message. To butcher Nike's slogan, "Just don't do it!"
Displaying a nervous giggle: Just like a weak handshake, the nervous giggle, in the eyes and mind of your audience, turns you into a child. No one seriously does business with a child.
Over-using "I'm sorry": A 'killer' for undermining your authority, a phrase like, "I need your report on my desk by 5 o'clock, sorry" just knocks your professionalism, your communication and your career for six. You have no need to apologise if you are the boss or the client. There is a place for politeness in business, as there are for courtesy and humility. But in the shark-eat-shark world of nature and business, there is no room for the weak and mousy. Sorry to have to break that to you...
Standing passively: Crossed arms, crossed legs... they signal just one thing—detachment, as if you really don't want to be there, listening to the other person, but you have to. Passively standing kicks down the building bricks of trust, over time reducing your career reputation to rubble.
Avoiding eye contact: Whilst too much staring at someone can cause discomfort, so can too little. By not looking at your audience (of one of one thousand) in the eye, you come across as nervous and insincere. A reasonable period of eye contact is between 4 and 7 seconds at a time, per person, especially when you are talking to them.
Playing with your hands: Wringing your hands, or playing 'fig leaf' is a sure way of conveying insecurity about yourself or your message. And recently I was reminded by my Toastmasters club colleagues of a habit of mine that I need to break—twisting my wedding ring around my finger when I present. My colleagues found themselves focusing more on my ring-twiddling than my message.
Speaking too softly: A habit that is a sure sign in the eyes of others, that you are not confident about yourself, your message or your authority to deliver it. You come across as near-invisible, weak and insubstantial, as well as make yourself difficult to be heard by those who are hard of hearing. And as I get older, my hearing is definately getting worse—a legacy of spending years in front of PA stacks as a lighting manager for rock bands.
Using qualifying words: This is quite possibly one of the worst habits anyone could have. Absolutely nearly everyone qualifies their words, and most often the effect is to dilute the power and impact of your message. Seriously, using words such as "kind of", "sort of" and "maybe" make even the smartest of us appear unsure.
If you are unsure if you have any or all of these habits when you communicate in a business setting, or if you are unsure about how to rid yourself of them, please do not hesitate to contact me. I can either point you in the direction of your nearest Toastmasters public speaking club (a fantastic organisation geared specifically to help you become a powerful public speaker), or else I can offer alternative resources, including analysing your business communication performance and subsequently coaching you to greater heights.
Reports I have written:
Measuring the impact and ROI of social media - for Ark Group
Making Social Media work for your business - for Ark Group
Social Media: The New Business Communication Landscape - for Ark Group
How to get started with podcasting in your organisation - for Melcrum Publishing
Contributing author to How to use social media to solve critical internal communication issues - for Melcrum Publishing
Contributing author to How to communicate with hard-to-reach employees - for Melcrum Publishing
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Why does employee communication matter?
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