Over the past decade of training professionals to speak with clarity and confidence and training them to use their communication skills to climb the corporate ladder, I’ve found that there is one key factor that separates people who truly take their skills to the next level: practice. Learning techniques and strategies for better communication isn’t enough on its own. In order to really integrate the techniques into your day-to-day speech and see lasting results, your brain and body require regular systematic practice.
It’s important to dedicate yourself to formal practice (e.g., completing the homework exercises your trainer has assigned to you). But integrating practice into your daily interactions is also essential and helps make your newfound skills more natural. Here are some ideas for integrating practice into your day-to-day life:
- Leave notes for yourself in places that you will see often over the course of your day. For example, put a post it note on your phone that says “Slow down!” or “Keep it clear!” Then, each time you pick up your phone to speak with someone, that visual reminder will help you focus on that specific skill. Since writing the book, Communicate Up The Corporate Ladder, I have heard many, many people say, “I now have post-it notes everywhere (even on the pages of the book) to remind myself to practice.” Clearly, the post-it notes are a popular way to remind ourselves to practice.
- Practice your strategies when you order at a restaurant or coffee shop. Take the time when you are waiting or standing in line to decide on the speech skills you would like to focus on, then speak as clearly and concisely as possible to your server as you order.
- Take advantage of opportunities for public speaking in your personal and professional life. Whether it’s presenting your ideas in a meeting at work, speaking at a PTA meeting or simply telling a story to a group of friends at a party, use each opportunity for public speaking as a chance to improve your skills. Afterwards, take stock of your performance and decide what you would like to improve on the next time around.
- Try to read aloud as often as possible. Having the words written out in front of you means you can put your full attention on practicing your communication techniques. Print out some of the e-mails you receive during the workday, and once you’re in the privacy of your home or your office, try reading them aloud. Reading to your child can also be an excellent opportunity for practice.
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