Communication Skills - FAQ

Why is effective communication important?
The ability to communicate is an essential life skill and one that can be continually developed. Individuals who are good communicators find it easy to develop empathy and trust with others. These people adapt their style of communication to suit the audience and situation they are presented with.

What communication styles are there?
Each person's communication style is a unique combination of their own innate skills and those learnt both formally and through experience. What makes some people better than others at communicating is their ability to adapt their style to suit the message, environment, and exchange.

How do you recognize different communication styles?
Whilst individuals may favor a particular way of communicating, they can alter their behavior to other communication styles if necessary to suit a particular situation. This flexibility helps them to come across as knowledgeable, confident, and empathetic.

What are perceptual preferences in communication?
People may be naturally visual, auditory, or kinesthetic communicators. Using a supplementary form of communication can help your message to be correctly interpreted.

How do attitudes affect communication?
Effective communication depends on your ability to read the attitude of the other person or group. This is something that can be picked up from the behavior you see and will reflect their emotions and feelings towards the communication.

What research is applicable to workplace communication?
There is a whole industry built on helping you to become a better communicator. Unfortunately, some of what is written about this topic is rather misleading.

What is the RESULT principle?
The RESULT principle can help you to improve your communication skills. The acronym stands for Reason, Environment, Specific, Understanding, Listen, and Timeframe.

What are the barriers to communication?
Problems with communication occur when the way in which we express ourselves is not fully understood and appreciated by those we want to communicate with. Some of these differences are within our control, others are not, and being forewarned about such obstacles influences how successful your communications will be.

What is active listening?
Active listening is a straightforward technique that you can use to improve your communication skills. It involves listening for meaning, in a neutral and non-judgmental way.

How is active listening defined?
There are three components of active listening that you need to understand in order to master this essential communication skill. These are listener orientation, the reflective technique and questioning skills.

What is the reflective technique?
Reflection involves reflecting back to the speaker what it is you believe they mean. This technique increases your own understanding, helps the speaker to clarify his or her own thoughts, and can reassure them that you are interested in their point of view. A mixture of reflection and direct questioning can get to the bottom of what people mean.

What questioning skills are used in active listening?
Questions can help you to focus attention, elicit new ideas, encourage exploration, and foster commitment. There are seven different types of question you can use: open, probing, closed, reflective, leading, hypothetical, and paraphrasing.

What are the barriers to active listening?
There are many barriers to active listening, including physical and cultural factors such as a noisy environment, a strong regional accent, or a difference in terms of reference. There are also barriers that you can create yourself if you are not careful. These include: inappropriate nonverbal cues, taking the spotlight, stereotyped reactions, inappropriate responses, pretending understanding, overreaching and under-reaching, and long-windedness.

What are the advantages of active listening?
The elements of listening orientation (empathy, acceptance, congruence, and concreteness) are likely to increase as the reflective listening process continues. These are the ingredients you need for an open, trusting relationship with your team members.

Why planning a presentation is so important?
People already feel that there are too many presentations and that most of them go on far too long. There are very few circumstances in which you will find an audience that is enthusiastic about what you are about to say. When you get up to speak the most common thought likely to be in people's minds will be 'This had better be short, to the point, and worth listening to as I've got a stack of things to do!'

Why you need to prepare for even low-key management presentations?
Most management presentations are fairly low-key and involve passing on information. However, these presentations are still important because you are visible to your own team or to your senior management, both of which are important to your career.

What are the advantages of giving a presentation?
Presentations offer you the opportunity to: interact with your audience, observe their reactions, gauge the level of their understanding, emphasize key points, and assess the level of acceptance of your message.

What is the Four-Stage planning process?
Irrespective of how much time you have, the best approach to planning is to use a method that will give you a usable structure as quickly and efficiently as possible. You can always refine it later if necessary. There are four key stages to planning your presentation: identify your aim, profile your audience, define your key message statement, and outline the scope.

What is audience profiling?
It is essential to know your audience and to make sure that your presentation takes account of their existing knowledge, level of interest, and what they want from it. Audience profiling can help you with this, but you also need to use common sense and experience.

Why is the presentation environment important?
Audience size will also have a bearing on the kind of visual aids that will be appropriate and whether or not you should rely on notes or a full script. If your presentation is part of a larger event then you need to know who is presenting before and after you, and whether your time slot is guaranteed.

What is a Key Message Statement?
A key message statement makes it clear in as few words as possible why the audience should give you their full attention right now. The key message statement must: be created specifically for the audience, be one sentence long, and be simple enough to be memorable. In most cases, the statement does not need to be clever, witty, or dramatic, but is does need to reflect your own aim for the presentation and should be phrased in a way that is 'audience-centric.'

How do you outline the scope of a presentation?
Using your presentation aim and the amount of time you have been allocated, select whether you need a broad scope with less detail, or a narrow scope with greater detail.

What are the deliverables of the planning a presentation step?
Any presentation you give should engage the audience as quickly as possible and should keep them focused on your message all of the time you are speaking. To achieve this, you need to develop an approach to preparing presentations that gives you a clear 'key message' and supporting structure, so that even when you don't have much time to prepare you can still capture and hold the audience's attention.

Why is preparing a presentation so important?
The competencies you display during presentations can help your career prospects, particularly if you can show that you are a persuasive speaker.

Why are repetition and timing important in a presentation?
An effective presentation requires a certain amount of repetition in order to get the message across to the audience. This repetition needs to be allowed for in the timings that you allocate for each part of the presentation.

Why does your presentation need an aim statement?
The aim statement serves to keep you focused on what it is you are trying to achieve. It also makes it easy to come up with a key message statement, which is what you want your audience to remember at the end of the presentation.

What is the Five-Stage Format of a presentation?
The five-stage format of a pre-introduction, introduction, main body, summary, and conclusion is suitable for most workplace presentations.

What is the best way to prepare the main body of the presentation?
The first stage is to prepare the main body of the presentation because all of the other stages are dependent on it. The most common problem that people have when developing a presentation is to underestimate how long it is going to take to deliver.

What guidelines can you use to prepare your key points?
There are a series of guidelines that you can use to make sure that your key points are clear, logical and easy to understand.

How can you finalize the main body of your presentation?
If the presentation is an important one, then work through this draft with a trusted colleague as this can help to get the structure and emphasis right and leave you with more time to fine-tune it.

What is a presentation pre-Introduction?
A pre-introduction serves to get people's attention and to ensure that they are listening to you so that they can hear your full introduction.

What should you put into a presentation introduction?
The introduction should tell the audience your key message and your credentials and should also tell them how your presentation is structured and how long it is going to take. It is your first opportunity to make it clear to the audience that following your presentation is not going to be hard work.

What should you put into a presentation summary and conclusion?
The function of the summary is to make it clear that you are moving towards the conclusion of the presentation. You can summarize by restating the key message statement and how the key points support it. Your conclusion should be one single sentence that refers back to the key message statement.

What factors are important when delivering a presentation?
There are three key elements of delivering a presentation: Your style of delivery, understanding your audience and ensuring the venue supports your message.

What styles of presenting are available?
There are three presentation styles that you can use: memorizing the content, reading from a full script, or using free, conversational speech aided by cue cards.

How should cue cards be used?
Cue cards should be sequentially numbered, only one side should be used, and each card should deal with only one key point. Presenting in this style allows the audience to view you as someone who owns this information and is knowledgeable about it.

How can you develop a persuasive delivery style?
A persuasive delivery style involves mastery of voice, body language, and eye contact. You should make a conscious effort to eradicate any verbal mannerisms you may have. These include: droning, aural punctuation, hesitation, or verification.

What is the best way to rehearse a presentation?
The only way to develop your delivery skills is through continual practice, criticism, and revision. Remember, audiences like knowledgeable, confident, and enthusiastic presenters. Use the video camera on your cell phone to record your rehearsals. This will help you overcome any annoying mannerisms you may have.

How can you read your audience?
Reading the audience's body language can help you to modify the pace of your delivery to keep as many people on board as possible. It can also help you to gauge who is in agreement with you, who is opposing your point of view, and who has yet to decide.

How can you ensure that you stay in control?
You need to have a strategy for dealing with unexpected questions. The safest approach is to acknowledge the question saying that there is insufficient time to answer it properly and to promise to deal with it during the Q&A session or after the presentation. Never allow yourself to be drawn into an argument, but don't appear arrogant or unconcerned about issues that other people feel strongly enough about to bring up.

How should the question and answer session be organized?
You should plan for the Q&A session rather than leaving it to chance because a lack of questions after a presentation can make it look as though no one was really interested in the message.

Why is it important to check the the venue beforehand?
Make sure that you have access to the room before your presentation so that you can check it meets your requirements and that any technology you need works as it should.

Why is the venue layout important?
The layout of the venue can have a big impact on the effectiveness of your presentation. Take control of the venue as early as possible, remove any distractions, and encourage people to occupy seats starting at the front of the room rather than the back. Always have a back-up plan in case the technology fails and you can't use your visual aids or your time slot is shortened.

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