Developing Good Communication Skills
When you are called on as a public speaker your goal is to always communicate some type of an idea or lesson to others. Generally you will want them to take some type of action. This means a good public speaker must have good communication skills. But how can you develop these skills?
To illustrate how this might be done, let’s imagine you are called upon to address the local board of education at an open and public meeting. The purpose you have in mind is to help both school board members and local parents understand that school bus safety has been ignored. Let’s say the board has granted you ten minutes to make your presentation. Are you with me? Okay, then how do you get started?
First, you must decide upon the main points you want to stand out. It is always good to have just two or three main points. Why? Because when you have just a few points they will stand out in your listeners’ minds. If you develop too many points your material will become weighty and difficult to follow. Good communication skills calls for just two or three main points in a ten minute presentation.
After giving it some thought, you decide you want to develop these three main points:
- Children can die or be seriously injured on unsafe school buses.
- Money spent on new equipment will the district funds by reducing insurance premiums and lawsuits.
- Members of the board will feel good about providing safe transportation for the district’s students.
Starting with point one, you could have lengthy discussions about brake issues, high mileage engines, old tires or any number of particular safety issues. But rather than getting bogged down in a lot of detail, you decide to make this single main point: Children are seriously injured and even die in unsafe buses.
One of the best ways to make a point stand out is through the telling of a story. Rather than give a lot of statistical details, why not tell a story to make your point. Find a news story about a school bus accident in another school district that resulted in injuries to students. Emphasize the bus was the problem — perhaps due to improper maintenance or old or faulty parts. There is no need to go into a great detail because your point is made — students were injured in an unsafe bus.
Before we move on to point two, why do you suppose using a story shows good communication skills? Because when your audience hears a story they don’t hear simple facts and numbers. They are placed inside a situation they identify with. They develop empathy for the participants and it involves them emotionally. Remember, most people respond to their emotions before they respond to hard facts.
Now let’s move on to our second point. How can you illustrate that purchasing new equipment is often more economical than repairing old, worn out equipment? Again, see if you can you find a story that will back up your position. Perhaps you could tell about a school district which was sued for negligence due to a school bus accident. You may be able to find examples of districts found liable for using dangerous equipment. Here you may use a few figures, perhaps even offer a hand out, but keep it very simple.
For example, you might provide a few basic facts about the school district which was sued over a bus accident. Show the cost of repairing each old bus; the fuel costs; the liability insurance; and the cost of settling the lawsuit. Then compare the tax benefits of purchasing a new propane bus, the reduced fuel and insurance costs. The point will be well made and you don’t need a lot of mind numbing details. Your audience will not want to identify with the negligent school district.
Finally, your third and concluding point. This is where you instruct your audience on what you want them to do. Again, it is best to get them involved emotionally. Let them know the benefits they will get by following your course of action.
For instance, you might point out that the lives of all of the students in the district are in the hands of a few, responsible board members. Empathize and let them know you respect the heavy responsibility they have on their shoulders. Assure them that all parents look to them to put the safety of their children first.
Imagine how the school board members felt in the district with students injured due to old and unsafe school buses? Think about how responsible they must have felt knowing they had the power to do something about it but failed to do so. Remind them how good they will feel knowing they can look each of their parent constituents in the eye and tell them their children are riding on safe school buses each day.
How does that sound? We just outlined a brief presentation that displayed good communication skills because it kept things simple and developed only three main points. Each of these points stood out in the minds of the audience. Also, good teaching techniques were employed with the use of stories. Stories stick in people’s minds and get listeners emotionally involved. Stories compel your listeners to come up with a solution to a problem presented in the story. Whenever possible, use stories when communicating with others. This tried and true technique has worked for thousands of years.
Naturally developing good communication skills in public speaking will take some practice. The most important thing to remember is to stay conversational — never sound like an orator. Use simple language that convey ideas through the use of stories and illustrations. Act naturally, never over dramatic. Use gestures while speaking and employ the appropriate pitch, pace and power in your voice which is appropriate to your material. Learn to do these few things effectively and you will truly develop the art of public speaking!