Human beings spend more than 75% of the day speaking. For the most part, we use our main communication tool—our voice—without giving it a second thought. But when speaking in public, we sometimes have trouble communicating and connecting with the audience. We may come across as stiff, uncomfortable, or unnatural. To connect with the audience, it is essential to have a pleasant, natural, dynamic, and expressive voice.
Two key elements of effective communication are often overlooked. First, you must have a goal in mind. Second, you must have a clear idea of what you want to say. Moreover, not everyone perceives messages in the same way, so you must be prepared to adapt to the situation and to the person in front of you.
The digital assistants that are popular nowadays—Siri, Cortana, etc.—are known for their monotonous voices. The pitch never varies, so the overall effect is emotionless and dreary. Richard Strauss famously said that the human voice is the most beautiful instrument of all, but also the most difficult to play. Your voice is your calling card, and it leaves an impression. It is your personal brand, the thing that sets you apart, and the best possible tool for forging a connection. The words we speak can tap into people’s emotions.
The human voice is the most beautiful instrument of all, but also the most difficult to play.
An essentially human skill
Communication is fundamental for leaders and organizations alike. It is a human skill that will always be necessary. Businesses begin with an idea. If you don’t know how to convey your idea, it will go nowhere. If you aren’t an efficient communicator, your idea will not prosper. One common pitfall is to prioritize the precision of your message over the goal of being interesting—an approach that tends to come across as unnatural. Hence the importance of understanding the four types of communication, each of which involves certain variables that enable speakers to capture the audience’s attention and keep them engaged throughout the presentation.
Nonverbal communication is the first thing we notice: 38% of a speaker’s impact can be attributed to tone of voice, compared with 55% for body language and just 7% for choice of words.
The main goal of phonetic communication is to transmit a message that makes a direct impact on the audience and does not come across as monotonous. The best approach is to speak at a moderate pace, pausing about four or five times per minute. These silences make the speaker seem more natural, more real. If you speak too quickly, the audience finds it unpleasant and tunes out; if you speak too slowly, the audience gets bored. The ideal balance is to use 130-150 words per minute and to modulate your voice by varying the pace, raising and lowering the volume, using different tones of voice, and emphasizing certain words. Without appropriate intonation and optimal emphasis, your message will not have the same influence.
To communicate effectively, it’s important to be natural. Be yourself. This is where kinesthetic communication—body language—comes into play. Hand movements are especially important. Gesture calmly, serenely, and naturally, as you would when speaking with friends or family. Choppy, exaggerated, or repetitive movements convey nervousness or a lack of confidence. Eye contact and facial expressions are also crucial. When speaking to multiple people, make sure to focus your gaze on each person for at least a couple seconds. If you fail to make eye contact with any of your conversation partners, those individuals will lose interest, becoming passive and detached. This is a key form of visual communication that complements your words and facial expressions.
38% of a speaker’s impact can be attributed to tone of voice, compared with 55% for body language and just 7% for choice of words.
Verbal communication—the actual content of your message—also requires proper attention. However, it will not be entirely effective if it is not accompanied by the two nonverbal communication elements described above. The key to successfully connecting with people is to combine verbal and nonverbal communication.
And then there’s fear. When it comes to public speaking, this may be the most difficult factor to control—and therefore, it deserves special attention. Controlled breathing can calm your nerves. Inhale deeply, from the diaphragm: this will allow you to control your voice and mind, project an image of serenity, and foster a direct connection with the audience.
It’s not easy to master the art of good communication. However, with training and dedication, you can develop the necessary skills to convey your ideas ably and convincingly.
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