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5 Key Ways To Improve The Quality Of Your Communication Skills

Some key traits distinguish the excellent communicators from the average.

In my life, I've learned many lessons and techniques to improve my communication. We can take into consideration several things that might be useful for pitching an idea, for public presentations and for other forms of communication.

However, among all of these, there are some key takeaways that leverage much more change than others. So, here are the things I would consider to be most important for dramatically improving the quality of your communication in a global way, regardless of the medium or content:

1. Learn To Summarize

The ability to summarize, especially in today's world, is key. People have small amounts of time. The ability to take a long list of points, a long text or any other complex material and distill it to some key points is crucial.

You need to be able to summarize a situation in one line — three lines; ten lines; five minutes; ten minutes; 30 minutes. You need to shorten or elongate your story, depending on the specific situation.

This skill is paramount for a startup. In a world where a million-dollar opportunity can pop up when you least expect it, it's crucial for a founder to be able to pitch anytime and anywhere. He has to be able to deliver the one-minute version, the three-minute version, the five-minute version that omits financial details and the five-minute version for an investor that mentions all the numbers and omits the commercial aspects.

The key lesson here would be: Don't just memorize. Be able to chew your message. Massage it. Make it shorter or longer depending on what happens in real time.


2. Connect With The Target Or Audience

Facts are not the only thing that matters in a presentation or speech. The way these facts are presented is crucial. In modern society, we need stories and we need emotion. Everyone can read numbers, but few people can make you truly like them, empathize with them and open you to suggestion.

People have a need to connect. We give more importance to facts we like and less importance to facts we don't. We might even oversee facts if they're not “our thing” at all.

Therefore, whenever we need to convey a message, we need to wrap it in stories, analogies or a personalized message that matches the audience.


3. Be Heavily Fact-Based

Whenever a person delivers a message, many will resonate with that message, but some will definitely criticize or attack the messenger. It's crucial, then, to base all of your assumptions, predictions and conclusions heavily on facts.

Naturally, depending on the subject of the presentation and the level of seriousness, you can give yourself some leeway. However, whatever content you present to whichever audience, you must stay based heavily on the facts. You will be attacked and questioned and you better have an answer when the time comes.


4. Be Prepared

You need to be prepared. People will have questions and might need you to clarify a specific point. People might want you to answer a completely unrelated question. You need to mentally train yourself to take all these scenarios in stride.

Some people might ask weird questions or they might simply miss a part of your message or understand it the wrong way. It's important to be prepared for of all these scenarios.


5. Cross-Reference

Find ways in which your message references or reflects information that exists in books, articles or from direct quotes.

The more your message has in common with existing content from other people, the more authority you will have and the more you will be able to relate and articulate that message based on other existing perspectives. This will allow you to relate and connect more to the audience.

Although in very specific cases you will convey a message that's not related to any existing knowledge, these cases are rare. Usually, doing the opposite and contrasting your message with all previously existing opinions and material will help you position yourself.

Photo via Wall Street 2

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Vasco Patrício

Contributor

Vasco is a contributing writer based in Boston, MA and Lisbon, Portugal. Having co-founded two Enterprise Data startups and having pursued mentoring roles, Vasco participates in the BGI startup accelerator within the MIT-Portugal initiative.
Vasco is a contributing writer based in Boston, MA and Lisbon, Portugal. Having co-founded two Enterprise Data startups and having pursued mentoring roles, Vasco participates in the BGI startup accelerator within the MIT-Portugal initiative.

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