Learn more about communication

Summary: Commmunication

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Communication comes in many forms – through face-to-face interactions, phone conversations, and written communications (e.g. email, social media, video calls, etc.).

Good communication means others can better understand your ideas, help you build relationships, articulate your needs and self-advocate.

Good communication also helps you to better understand others which will help you to reason with them, negotiate effectively and come to an agreement when resolving an issue.

Tips to effectively communicate:

  • Don’t communicate with others at the same time
  • Prepare what to say or key points in advance
  • Use stimming/fidget objects to manage stimulation levels
  • Use email to slow down the exchange so there’s time to think it all through, or choose another preferred way of communicating

You might choose to call someone when the communication is urgent, complicated or personal. Find a quiet place to talk and start by introducing yourself and the reason why you called.

You might text someone when the communication is less urgent and is informal. Avoid using text abbreviations that the receiver may not understand.

Emails are generally used in formal situations, especially when written evidence of the communication may be needed. Start by addressing the receiver and explaining the reason for your email. Finish with your name and contact details. You can also add attachments that are relevant.

Presentation skills

Presentation skills help you to communicate effectively. Many people are required to give presentations at some stage – whether it be for their studies, job, an event (such as a wedding) or to a community group.

Some people get nervous presenting to large audiences. This fear can be reduced through preparation and practice.

The first step is to write your speech. There are a few things to keep in mind.

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You should have a clear understanding of what (the subject) you’re wanting to communicate, and why (the purpose).

To find the ‘why’ (the purpose), consider:

  • Why was I invited to give this presentation?
  • What am I trying to achieve by giving this presentation?
  • How do I want the audience to transform?

If you’re unsure about the ‘what’ (the subject), mind-mapping exercises can be a great way to jot down your ideas. Then, highlight those that stick out and most align to the purpose.

When writing your presentation, always ask yourself ‘how does this align to the purpose?’ to make sure you stay on track.

Try to get an understanding of who the audience is. This way, you can tailor your speech to better connect with them.

Some questions to consider:

  • Will they have an understanding of the topic or will it be completely new to them? This will determine the explanations you need to provide. If they are familiar with the topic, you could provide jokes or ask questions that relate the topic to themselves and make them feel involved.
  • What is the age range? A presentation to a teenage audience should be much different to an audience of 70+ year olds. The age range will influence the language you use, the jokes you’ll make and visuals you provide.

Stories will help build a connection with the audience. Showing authenticity through personal stories helps others to feel empathy and build trust. It’s also much more likely people will remember stories than words and images.

Don’t be shy to add a few jokes here and there. Humour tends to relax people and helps you to connect to the audience.

Remember to pause after each joke to give the audience a chance to laugh before continuing.

Struggling to know where to begin? Here are three ways to start a speech that will get your audience’s attention.

  1. Begin with a story.
  2. State a fact that will shock the audience.
  3. Ask a question that matters to the audience.

Reference: How to start a speech by Conor Neill

Only use visual cues (e.g. Powerpoint) if they are needed to provide context or maintain interest. Remember – you are the show! The visuals are simply aids and should not distract the audience from what you’re saying.

The next step is to practice presenting your presentation. When delivering a presentation:

  • Face the audience
  • Maintain good posture
  • Show eye contact
  • Speak clearly and loud enough for people to hear
  • Watch your speaking speed – don’t speak to quickly and remember to pause in between paragraphs (and after jokes)
  • Vary your tone and pitch to emphasise key points and keep things interesting
  • Use cue cards (not a large piece of paper that may cover your face)
  • Make sure to keep your speech within the allocated time (don’t make it longer than it needs to be!)

Remember to rehearse beforehand and ask for feedback. Alternatively, film yourself and watch it to see where you could improve.
Practice makes perfect!

Non-verbal communication and Active listening

Non-verbal communication is the use of body language, gestures, eye contact and facial expressions.

Active listening is when you listen attentively, try to understand what they’re saying, and paraphrase (repeat what was said in your own words to show you understand). It also includes asking relevant questions to clarify what was said or to further your understanding.

You can practice non-verbal communication and active listening by:

  • Listening attentively to others
  • Maintaining eye contact
  • Read their non-verbal cues (body language, facial expressions, gestures, etc.)
  • Avoiding distractions (such as your mobile phone) or using fidgets to help concentrate
  • Avoiding interrupting others
  • Paraphrasing (repeating what was said in your own words to show you understand)
  • Asking relevant questions

Leading meetings

Ever been in a meeting that never ends? Or one that makes you wonder why you’re even there? Most of us are well-acquainted with meetings that feel like a waste of time.

Meetings serve important functions, however. We use them to exchange information, get team input on ideas, brainstorm new ideas, and solve problems. If our meetings are ineffective, it’s hard to achieve these goals.

Let’s learn the five steps to running meetings that are more efficient, more constructive, and more engaging for you and your team.

How to run an effective meeting

You decide to call a meeting for a reason—not just to gather your colleagues for idle chit-chat. You need to discuss a particular issue, idea, or project. You have an objective you hope to achieve. Whatever the “why” might be, if you’re going to run an effective meeting, you need to know it.

Here is a list of common reasons why you might want to call a meeting:

  • Share knowledge or provide training
  • Brainstorm and develop new ideas
  • Align team members
  • Make decisions
  • Solve problems
  • Solicit feedback
  • Give direction
  • Boost morale or foster team-building

If you don’t see your specific reason on this list, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hold your meeting.  The key is to understand the purpose of your meeting before you plan it. So, ask yourself, “What do I want to accomplish by the end of this meeting?”

The next step is to choose who should attend the meeting and where it should take place.

1. Attendees. Use your meeting objectives to decide who to invite. No meeting invitation should be arbitrary or gratuitous. Ask yourself:

  • Whose perspective would be helpful?
  • Who needs to know the information you’ll cover?
  • Who is involved with, or affected by, the project?
  • How should attendees prepare for the meeting?

2. Location. The location of your meeting also matters. Consider this:

  • How long do you expect this meeting to last? Host lengthy meetings in a comfortable setting. Or, to keep a meeting short and create a sense of urgency, you might ask attendees to stand (as they are able).
  • Do you need a whiteboard or other visual resources? Access to certain materials may determine where you hold the meeting.
  • What kind of environment do you want to create? You might consider holding a brainstorming meeting in a creative environment, for example.

A meeting agenda communicates a meeting’s details, objectives, and discussion topics. A deliberate, well-thought-out agenda will help keep a meeting focused and moving forward. It includes the following elements:

  • The time, date, and location of the meeting
  • Who will be attending
  • The meeting objective
  • Topics to be discussed
  • Meeting activities or action items
  • Allocated time for each portion of the meeting

Tip: Create and distribute the agenda in advance to give attendees time to prepare their thoughts and ideas.

During a meeting, you’re responsible for facilitating the discussion and staying on track. Prompt attendees with discussion questions and encourage equal participation. You can also keep the meeting on track by:

  • Moving forward. Encourage action and don’t let the conversation waffle. Be direct and press for clarity about final decisions, task delegations, and deadlines.
  • Avoiding detours. Don’t hesitate to note when the discussion is veering out of lines for the meeting’s objectives. Be direct and let others know you can discuss off-topic items offline or in another meeting. Then, redirect the conversation.

Tip: Ban distractions. Keep your meeting space focused and distraction-free by banning mobiles, nonessential laptops, and other distractions during the meeting.

Finally, summarise outcomes at the end of each meeting agenda item—including at the end of the meeting. Meeting outcomes include decisions made, tasks delegated or roles assigned, and key information exchanged, as well as due dates. Clarifying and repeating meeting outcomes ensures that everyone has a common understanding of key takeaways and next steps.

Tip: Assign a notetaker. Consider assigning the role of notetaker to one attendee. Have that person take notes of ideas suggested, topics discussed, and outcomes. After the meeting is over, you can send these notes in a recap email to all attendees for their reference.

End on time. People are busy and have other commitments. It’s important to end meeting on schedule to respect everyone’s time and energy.

Activity: What's your 'why'?

Complete the following activities to check your understanding.


Additional resources

Watch the video below to see an example of a bad presentation and notice how Ranjit incorporates feedback to improve his presentation skills.

Body Language Quiz

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