“When it comes to communication, most entrepreneurs just wing it, often with mixed results,” says BDC Business Consultant Neil Orr, who advises entrepreneurs on management skills. “Communication is a skill that should be worked at and developed.”
Orr shares four essential tips to being a better communicator.
1. DEVELOP AN ELEVATOR PITCH
Create an “elevator pitch”—a concise description of what your company does and the value it adds. You should be able to explain that in one sentence.
“Very, very few entrepreneurs can ever do this,” Orr says. “They have a lot of enthusiasm for what they do, but they need to learn to say things in a short and sweet manner. Their description is two paragraphs long; it needs to be a sentence.”
You should use this description across all mediums—not just in the elevator, but also in marketing and online.
2. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Research ahead of time the background and needs of your audience. Then, tailor the message and style of your communications. Talking with one or two people is different from addressing 30 or 300. A customer isn’t the same as a supplier.
“Entrepreneurs will often treat everyone as if they’re a client,” Orr says. “A supplier isn’t as interested in your sales pitch as a client. They want to know if you’re stable and consistent.”
When addressing a large group, for example, you should focus on common concerns, not the issues of a select group of audience members.
“You have to be able to include the whole group,” Orr says.
Body language also changes. Before a group, you need to be more expressive to hold attention, moving around, using bigger hand gestures and varying your tone. But the same theatrics would be silly and off-putting before just one or two people.
3. BE ATTENTIVE
Pay attention to your audience’s verbal and nonverbal cues. Have you lost them, or are they still listening and engaged? It’s important to be aware of such signs. If you sense attention is waning, you can ask your audience questions as a way to bring them back into the conversation.
It also helps to be a good listener. “Most conversations become easier if you switch to listening. Anybody who spends time talking to you wants to know you’re listening,” Orr says. “Conversation is better than preaching.”
4. PREPARE BEFOREHAND
A little preparation can improve communication a lot. Make notes ahead of time about your speaking points. Ask employees or associates to suggest tips for addressing a specific audience.
“If you put some effort into preparation, it will always go smoother and you’ll relay information more clearly,” Orr says. “If you don’t pre-plan, you may forget things.” And practice your delivery. All skills improve with practice, including communication. BL
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