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September 15, 2006

A Small Improvement in Business Communication Style

By Catherine Kaputa

"All the world's a stage," goes the Bard's familiar refrain. And in the business world, meetings are the primary stage on which one "performs." Smart executives all understand what it takes to be in control of an important meeting or talk. And you should work at your communication and meeting skills if you want to be more effective and successful to.

What is the point of communicating if you don't have an impact?  How often do you go into business meetings, make business calls, and have business conversations without a persuasive message?  How often do you say your message without saying it in a way that’s indelibly your own? How good are you are presenting a recommendation to a group of senior executives?

Communication—the ability to articulate and to sell your point of view—is core to business and life success.  It means you can persuade people to choose you for the job, buy your product or service or promote you to lead the department. 

Here are some of the ideas from my book, U R A BRAND! How Smart People Brand Themselves for Business Success, that show you how to build a stronger verbal communications style.

Good Business Communication Is A Conversation

The trick to formal business communication (whether it’s oral or written) is making it sound informal. Between a you and your target audience a relationship needs to be built. You do that by being more informal and engaging rather than formal and “business-like.” It helps if you think of your business communication as a conversation with a colleague (and carry on a conversation in your head as you compose your thoughts).

The beginning is the most important part. You need to hook your audience with a surprising statistic or news. Remember, even business people don’t live by numbers and charts alone. If you have an interesting story or anecdote about the project or issue or can relate it to contemporary news, use it for dramatic effect (even if the presentation is on sales projections for the upcoming quarter). Stories and anecdotes that bring a project to life are particularly effective because they paint a picture that sticks in the mind. Stories get listeners involved in the human interest behind the project.

Top Ten Tips For Branding Business Communication

1. Begin strong.  If you have dramatic “news”, a surprising statistic or tie-in with a contemporary event, begin with it.

2. Bring your points to life through an anecdote, a “story,” or an example.

3. Limit yourself to three major points, not a project list.

4. Let your personality and point of view come through.

5. Harness the power of sound bites and “names” for key ideas and concepts. 

6. Include results, quantifiable results, or the next steps if the project is still in progress.

7. Think in terms of writing or talking to one specific person. Use simple words.

8. Be as brief as possible.  Less is more. 

9. Brand the talk or memo as being by you through a “signature” element.

10. Always have an element of surprise.

Develop Your Own Style

Stamp your style on all your communications. Remember, it’s not just the facts that are important. What’s important is your take on the facts. And how you present your ideas. By bringing more of yourself and your ideas into the equation, chances are your audience will not only understand what you are talking about, they will respond to it.

Some people use humor to connect with an audience and if humor is something that suits your personal style, you should too. Others use a provocative stance or even an element that becomes a trademark of that person. For example, one high tech executive begins all his talks with a Top Ten List. The president, at the State of the Union address, acknowledges everyday American heroes in the audience. It’s become a “branded” element of the State of the Union speech.

Make The Most Of Your Voice As A Branding Device

Our voice is like our DNA; it is unique and recognizable. If voice branding wasn’t powerful, impressionists like Rich Little would have no act. If you didn’t recognize the voices of Tom Hanks or Ellen DeGeneres or Eddie Murphy, there would be no point to paying them millions of dollars for voice-overs in animated films. W

hat you want to do is work with your voice and the way you sound. Record yourself and play it back. What does the way your voice sounds and the way you talk communicate about you? Is it consistent with your self brand strategy?

“I stand in pause where I shall first begin.” William Shakespeare

What makes a dramatic difference in communication is to slow down your speech and to rehearse out loud. Pause before you begin to talk. Leave “air” around your words by slowing down your speech. Pause at important points (beginning, key ideas, a story). When you slow things down, you give your listeners time to hear your ideas and to comprehend them better. It will also make you seem more confident if you don’t appear to be rushing through your message. Most people talk too fast in presenting material at meetings or leaving a voice mail message. Just do these two things—slowing down your speech and pausing—and you’ll find you will be perceived as a much stronger communicator.

Cks_2Catherine Kaputa is a brand and executive consultant, speaker and founder of SelfBrand LLC, a New York City brand strategy company that works for companies, products and people (www.selfbrand.com). She is the author of U R A BRAND! How Smart People Brand Themselves for Business Success, a new book by Davies-Black Publishing (www.urabrand.com).


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