Life Lessons from a Communications Specialist
a guest post from Martha Denton of The Presentation School
A communications specialist is someone who helps other individuals communicate through writing, presentations, navigate cultural differences, visual graphics and/or presentation coaching. We either do this through completing these tasks for our clients directly, training them to do it on their own, or some mixture of the two. I’m one of the rare breeds that do all of the above for presentations. Sure, a lot of my work involves grammar, margins and talk of software function, but it’s all for the same end: helping one individual be understood by another individual. In fancy communication specialist lingo, we start that with something called “stakeholder analysis,” which means we walk people through thinking about everyone who could care about that speaking engagement and what it’s like to be in their shoes. The other big task I help people through is feeling more confident when they speak to other people. And most importantly, I help people avoid this statement, “Wait, no, you didn’t understand me. That’s not what I meant.”
In my work, there are some life lessons that I've learned that I try to integrate into mylife all the time. Lessons that I think anyone could benefit from, especially anyone who wants to feel more connected to other people in a more authentic manner.
- Think before you speak. If you’re about to say something that you know will have a huge affect on the person you’re speaking to, think about the wording. Try not to insult them. Find the right tone for what you really mean (firm but kind, supportive, boundary setting, etc.)
- Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Think about how they like to communicate, it can be revealing. Sometimes just going through the exercise of wondering what it’s like to be the other person can help you find compassion for them.
- Good posture goes a long way. There are various studies that have been done that prove that standing up straight will help you appear more confident. There are even a few studies that have found that good posture changes your brain chemistry so you actually feel more confident.
- Repeat questions that you don’t understand. When facilitating a group, I suggest that facilitators repeat the question they hear in a way that more of the room could understand. This is worth doing with your loved ones, too, especially if you’re emotionally charged up and are trying to calm your system down.
- Rehearse tough talks. Definitely rehearse your presentations so you can go into autopilot when on stage (we never know what can happen during a presentation). It can also work for tough things you need to tell people. Say it out loud; see how your message sounds. Maybe you’ll realize you’re saying something offensive. You’ll also gain some practice in saying tough things so it’ll be easier to stay calm the next time you need to deal with your issues.
- Look people in the eye. When giving a presentation, it helps you connect with your audience. It also helps you connect with whomever you’re speaking with. Avoiding eye contact can make you look shady. We don’t want to be shady with our loved ones, do we?
Martha Denton is the Founder of www.ThePresentationSchool.com, a communications consultancy that helps individuals plan, write, design and deliver presentations more effectively. She also designs infographics. Some of her clients include major companies, non-profits and startups like: McKinsey & Company, The Economist, VF Corporation, Legolas-Media, and NYRR. You can follow her on Twitter at @marden928 and @presoschool