Good communication skills are key if you want to succeed in business. 

The key to being an excellent communicator is being able to make each and every person you talk to feel like the most important person in the world. This sounds like a lofty ambition but it is true of some of the most successful people of our time – from Richard Branson through to Elon Musk or Jack Ma. They all have one thing in common – they have an ability to make people feel like the absolute centre of their attention.

Good communicators tend to speak relatively slowly, so that everybody who is listening can keep up. You can use a pause to emphasise particular points, too. This gives your audience time to process and retain what you have just said. Try to use relatively simple language and avoid technical acronyms or jargon. At best, some people will not know what you are talking about. At worst, you risk irritating people who dislike technical jargon. The key outcome to aim for is that anyone can listen to you and understand what it is you have said.

Some of the best communicators, particularly in business, are the ones who embrace humour. People enjoy the company of individuals who don’t take themselves too seriously. If you want to share a joke, try to do so at your own expense. For example, talk about your failure to understand a new piece of technology or fashion trend. A self-deprecating style tends to be engaging and disarming for your audience. Laughing makes people feel good and can help your audience connect with you.

Even with our current dependence on video chats, Skype, Zoom, Teams, etc. it is important to talk with your hands and facial expressions as well as your voice. Turn the camera on, change your expression or wave your hand to emphasize a key point and use body language to reinforce what you are saying. Whether you are speaking to one person or presenting to 50 people, give them your undivided attention – this is the first step towards winning them over and is the basis for respectful, as well as effective, communication. 

Thank your audience (even if it is just one person you are communicating with). Thank them for their time and if they ask a question, thank them for that too.  Finally, if you say that you will follow up on something, make sure that you deliver on that follow up. Whether it is an email, forwarding a report or offering to make an introduction, become known as the person who follows up and delivers what you said you would deliver.

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