Ensure Your Words Are Always Understood
Think of the last really memorable talk or presentation that you attended. Now, was that easy to do, or did you really have to rack your brains to remember one? Sadly, too many presentations are easy to forget. And that's a big problem because the only reason the presenter gave the talk was to communicate something to you!
However, there are three basic things that you can do to ensure that your verbal messages are understood – and remembered – time and time again.
Although somewhat obvious and deceptively simple, these are:
• Understand the purpose of the presentation
• Keep the message clear and concise
• Be prepared
• Be vivid when delivering the message
Understand what you want to achieve
Before you start working on your talk or presentation, it's vital that you really understand what you want to say, who you want to tell and why they might want to hear it. To do this, ask yourself: Who? What? How? When? Where? Why?
Who are you speaking to? What are their interests, presuppositions and values? What do they share in common with others; how are they unique?
What do you wish to communicate? One way of answering this question is to ask yourself about the ‘success criteria’. How do you know if and when you have successfully communicated what you have in mind?
How can you best convey your message? Language is important here, as are the nonverbal cues discussed earlier. Choose your words and your nonverbal cues with your audience in mind. Plan a beginning, middle and end. If time and place allow, consider and prepare audio-visual aids.
When? Timing is important here. Develop a sense of timing, so that your contributions are seen and heard as relevant to the issue or matter at hand. There is a time to speak and a time to be silent. ‘It’s better to be silent than sing a bad tune.’
Where? What is the physical context of the communication in mind? You may have time to visit the room, for example, and rearrange the furniture. Check for availability and visibility if you are using audio or visual aids.
Why? In order to convert hearers into listeners, you need to know why they should listen to you – and tell them if necessary. What disposes them to listen? That implies that you know yourself why you are seeking to communicate – the value or worth or interest of what you are going to say.
Keep it simple
When it comes to wording your message, less is more. You're giving your audience headlines. They don't need to and are usually not expecting to become experts on the subject as a result of hearing your talk.
If you're using slides, limit the content of each one to a few bullet points, or one statement or a very simple diagram
Preparation is underrated. In fact, it is one of the most important factors in determining your communication successes. When possible, set meeting times and speaking and presentation times well in advance, thus allowing yourself the time you need to prepare your communications, mindful of the entire communication process (source, encoding, channel, decoding, receiver, feedback and context). By paying close attention to each of these stages and preparing accordingly, you ensure your communications will be more effective and better understood.
Of course, not all communications can be scheduled. In this case, preparation may mean having a good, thorough understanding of the office goings-on, enabling you to communicate with the knowledge you need to be effective, both through verbal and written communications.
Your delivery of your speech or presentation will make or break it, no matter how well you've prepared and crafted your clear, concise message. Some useful tips for keeping your presentation vivid include:
• Use examples to bring your points to life
• Keep your body language up-beat – don't stay stuck behind a rostrum
• Don't talk to fast. Less is more here too. Pauses are effective.
• Use a variety of tones of voice
• Use visual aids.