Are Communication Skills at an all Time Low

You have just been told that you are going to get a promotion, and you ask yourself - do I have the communication skills to cut it?

The joy you feel is quickly dampened by the realization that your new role includes presenting on a regular basis to senior management of your company and you are scared stiff! 

What do you do?

Perhaps you enroll on a presentation skills course and while on that course you feel your nerves ebb away with each presentation that you give and each piece of feedback that you receive. One month later you are to give your first presentation at work and the nerves just flood back as though the training course meant nothing.

There are many simple ways to avoid this dreaded possibility and most of them are very straightforward.

Firstly be prepared, that means fully researching your subject and, as far as possible, your audience. Confidence increases considerably when you know your subject and know that no question from the audience can throw you.

TIP 1: All presenters naturally feel more at ease answering a question (assuming they know the answer) than they do presenting, so, if possible, get a plant in the audience to ask you an agreed question early on in the presentation; any nerves will simply vanish!

Knowing your audience will allow you to structure your presentation in a way which will hold their interest; seeing the audience interested in what you are saying will provide a great boost to your confidence.

Secondly, try your presentation on trusted colleagues first and get them to tell you what works and what doesn't. Having already done the presentation is a guaranteed way to feel more at ease on the day.

Thirdly, do not worry about making a mistake. Joking about it can smooth the incident over, while endearing you to your audience.

TIP 2: Plan to make a harmless mistake early on and have a prepared humorous follow-up. The tension between you and the audience melts away as rapidly as ice in the desert. You could say perhaps "I fully expect sales to exceed £3,000 this month" (when you and the audience are expecting a figure of around £300,000), hesitate briefly, say, "oh well I'd better cancel the family holiday to Australia that I'd planned with my bonus this year!" Then follow up with "of course I meant £300,000".

Fourthly, break the ice by meeting a few people from your audience before you speak; you will find that making eye contact with those people will be a great aid to making you feel at ease while you're speaking.

Finally, deep breathing does actually help to relieve tense muscles, a quaking voice and queasy stomach. It also helps to sit in a chair, contract and relax your arm muscles. You can feel a big difference after you have done this, but if you find yourself becoming tense again, simply repeat or try it with other muscles especially neck muscles. Always have some water handy to prevent your mouth from becoming dry.

Try these tips and you will soon see that your confidence will rapidly increase. Also make sure that you do as many presentations as you can; the more you do the easier it gets. And the very best of luck!

Communication skills matter, it's difficult to develop a progressive career path without strong communication skills.