Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Things I learnt to improve communication at work

What happens when communication between people is not that efficient and clear in the business world? I am sure you know pretty well the following picture. Misunderstandings happen all the time when the actors in discussions, conversations or negotiations have an idea in mind which is tough to convey. Or when one is not really listening to the other and just have his own idea in mind.

Sadly, misunderstandings happen. Quite often. And this problem is time and money consuming. But above all, relationships get severely affected when expectation is betrayed, somehow, by too many assumptions.

What I learnt is that in order to make ideas caught by a partner and across the different communication channels, simple rules need to be followed. Let's go through some ideas.

Be careful to death by Power Point

According to a statistics, there are 300 millions Power Point users in the world. Everyday 30 millions presentations are done. It is pretty clear that a bad and boring presentation lead to bad communication and may bring undesidered consequences? Imagine you are trying to sell something but your presentation is damn bad.
  • Send content beforehand. Everybody will have an idea, and eventually will come with intelligent questions.
  • Attractive visuals. Put images as background. Nice images. Choose carefully images you plan to present. There are lots of media libraries with content ready and licensed to use. Don't simply steal from Google Images, you never know where your presentation is going and who's reading it.
  • 3 to 5 bullets, no further text. Use Power Point for what it is, a tool to visualize and summarize ideas. Not the script for your speech. Besides, people read faster than you speak, If you plan to fill your slides with text, just send them. You're useless.
  • Never, ever, look at the slides. Look at people.
  • Why are you presenting? Make sure you have a clear objective. Remember to follow the pattern why-what-how and not the other way round.
  • Pay attention to the overall message, and put some passion there.
  • Reherse, and ask for feedback.
  • Check remote control, check that your laptop is fine and make sure you have a backup on usb. Make it happen!

Again, don't bore people do death

You are presenting something to an audience, and soon you realize that from the bottom, people start snoring. You are boring them. My presentations were like that, some deeply technical speeches full of details. Since I started studying the art of presenting, my life changed. And I saved hundreds of lives.
  • Catch people's attention, say something great to start your presentation "Today I am here to change your life and make you rich!". You can even interact with people "how many of you know...?"
  • Keep eye contact, Otherwise you will lose the audience. 
  • Change tone of voice, presentations tend to get monotonous. A pitch from time to time will wake people up. DO YOU NEED AN EXAMPLE?
  • Make jokes, use an informal tone. Use a friendly tone.
  • Make a great unexpected conclusion

Video and teleconference

When the meeting is in a virtual room, first make sure that all the equipment works. To the purpose, connect some minutes before. Yes, common sense. But too many meetings starts late because the pin is wrong, the camera does not work and the voice is silent. Let's then summarize.
  • Check all the equipment is working fine in advance.
  • You may want to schedule meetings 5 minutes past the hour. That is 12:05, so people have time to move from one room to another, to setup a conference bridge or take a cup of coffee.
  • Speak clear and loud; and use your plain English. This may be a problem with non native speakers, not everybody has full control on english language. Keep it simple, then.
  • Remember to pay attention to people on the camera. If you are divided between a physical room and the camera, divide yourself between the two effectively.
  • Send material in advance, slides, documents and whatever is needed so people can follow you easily. 

Make emails more visual

People don't like reading flat, long, detailed emails. People will most probably read your email top to bottom, with a glance to bullets, possibly. Then here you have some ideas to make the most out of this channel.
  • Keep it short, but keep all the details in.
  • Use bullets to explain the main points 
  • Use bold, underline and italic.
  • Use colors to state that something deserves further attention

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