There are a lot of ways that you can begin immediately incorporating better communication about your business.
It can’t be that hard, can it? We speak from a very early age, and take english class every year in school. We talk to people every day.
And yet verbal communication is a challenge for many of us.
Here’s the great news: just like any other skill, verbal skills can be learned and practiced.
Here are five things you can start doing today to improve your communication. They don’t go in any particular order. Choose one that sounds good to start with, and begin to work on it. If you do, you’ll see quick and exciting results to your entrepreneurial pursuits as well as your sense of satisfaction and happiness.
- Extend your mindset to include communication
- Learn the art of storytelling
- Focus on the customer first, yourself second
- Write and practice your Elevator Pitch
- Reject the Rejectors and Move On
- Try my Three Step Communication Exercise
Let’s take a deeper look…
1. Extend Your Mindset To Include Communication
You already know the essentials of your business or service that you provide for people. You are really, really good at it, and maybe you even people that work for you who are good at it, too.
But in order for other people to be aware of your business and its core offerings, you will need to be able to comfortably articulate your message about it. Otherwise, you will live a very lopsided life as a business owner. It will be “incomplete”… like you’re buying a burger without the patty. Or a salad without the green stuff in it.
Instead, make a commitment to learn the skill of communication. It takes practice, and awkwardness is unavoidable. You will just have to give yourself permission to be a little awkward until you get better at it. Practicing with supportive friends or family can go a long way to giving you the opportunities to iron out your speaking abilities.
Here’s the tremendous upside: as you begin to talk more about what you offer people, you will feel more expressive, more free. As a result, you will begin to feel more confident, more fulfilled, and more alive as a member of a community. You’ll be more connected to people who can really help your business grow, whether they’re prospects, future customers, or influencers who can recommend you to somebody.
2. Learn The Art Of Storytelling
Storytelling is an ancient method of communication, probably the oldest. It certainly was important in the old days, as it could mean the difference between life and death for the listener – the stories carried not just moral lessons but lessons on survival in a harsh world.
Modern-day storytelling can be just as vital to the survival of a business.
Instead of just talking at a prospective contact or customer about what you do, bring them into a story. Think of it as a way to invite them into your business. You will find yourself looking them in the eye earnestly when you do so, and they can’t help but to be drawn in.
To build a good, compelling story about your business, you can begin by answering a few questions:
- What gave you the idea of starting your business in the first place?
- Was there a pain point that somebody had or that you yourself had, and you decided to relieve it?
- Is there a particular talent or skill that you’ve always had, and that’s what made you decide to follow it into a career?
- Is your business something that you’re passionate about? If so, why?
Study and listen and watch good storytellers. Read articles about storytelling. Here’s one on Behance that’s great: http://99u.com/articles/7229/want-your-message-to-stick-tell-a-story.
If you’re in doubt about the compelling nature of storytelling, think about why people love biographies and origin stories so much. Why is issue #1 always the most valuable issue of a comic book series? Because that’s when you get to find out HOW the radioactive spider bit the guy, and WHY he now swings around Manhattan beating up bad guys and saving people.
What’s YOUR origin story? If you can figure it out, and then figure out how to tell it, you’ll never run out of listeners.
3. Focus on the Customer First, Yourself Second
Communication starts with the other person in mind. Talking is a two-way street, and you already initiated the conversation when you had the idea to start a business that needs customers to survive.
Have you ever had those conversations when it felt like the other person was talking AT you, not to you or with you? Like talking with them was a one way street, and they had the right of way?
Well, don’t put your client, customer, or audience through it.
Take the focus off of yourself, and put it more on them. Then you will find that not only will you feel less self-conscious, but you will also become more likeable. You will engage them, making them an active participant, not just a passive listener.
Think of it as a way to invite someone else into your work. Here is a little world you’ve created, now you get to show them that world.
One way you can do this is by asking them questions. Let your natural curiosity about them show through.
Another is by looking closely at their nonverbal cues and adjusting to them. Do they seem nervous or agitated? Or disinterested? Or do they examine your work closely, seeming interested? There is a lot you can learn by looking, not just listening.
The magical thing about putting your listener first is that they will unconsciously become part of the aforementioned story. By taking an active role, they are part of your story. You will often find that the result of this interweaving of your lives is that they will be more likely to buy, vote for, or promote your creative output.
4. Write and Practice Your “Elevator Pitch”
The “Elevator Pitch“ supposes that you have a limited amount of time (basically, the time it takes to ride on an elevator from one floor to another) to tell someone about your business. It carries with it the need to craft it down to a bite-sized statement.
Be sure that it encompasses your goals and that it uniquely describes you. There may be a need to do some soul searching to make sure it’s exactly what you want to say. But don’t stress out too much over it – you can change it as you evolve and as you practice it.
You can use your Elevator Pitch to lean on whenever you get that sudden question that goes something like, “What do you do?” I can’t begin to count all the awkward times that’s happened to me in the past, before I made communication a priority… and I stammered out an answer that didn’t really fit me at all.
Many of us freeze up at that deceivingly simple question. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to confidently and without hesitation return a coherent, memorable response? Then you can go from there, answer further questions, or continue the conversation.
Your elevator pitch will take practice… plan to spend many minutes in front of the mirror, practicing the content, delivery, and tone of your pitch. Say it until you’re tired of saying it, and then say it some more. Then say it to a supportive friend or family member. Do this homework, and prepare to be surprised at the confident way you deliver it the next time you’re put on the spot.
Once you’ve gotten your Elevator Pitch honed to a shine, you can think of it as a solid sales asset for your business or career… as important as any other asset you have.
5. Reject the Rejectors… And Move On
No matter how hard you try, there will inevitably be people who aren’t listening, or just don’t get it. You may even encounter that person you’re most afraid of… the one who rejects you outright.
Your business is not for everybody. Just as you are different from the next person, your product or service is only for a select group of people. Get used to it. If you try to please everybody, you please nobody… and make yourself supremely unhappy in the process.
So just learn to relax, be yourself, and don’t try too hard to “sell” to people. If you exude confidence (not cockiness, but instead, quiet confidence that comes from self-awareness) then you will be magnetic to the right people.
And if you do encounter that person who doesn’t get it or seems outright hostile, then politely move on. If that person is a family member, or somebody who you can’t avoid, then draw the line at what conversation you can have in a civil manner.
Save your talk about your business for people who are genuinely interested in what you have to say. Don’t waste your breath on people who won’t listen to you. You can’t make them. You also cannot afford to spend your time trying to convince people who don’t want convincing.
6. Try my Three Step Creative Communication Exercise
Take action now by following this simple three-step formula to measurably improve your gift of gab in no time.
First, make a list of your current state as a communicator. Be honest:
- How do you feel in a room full of people?
- Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert? Why?
- What do you say when people ask you what you do for a living, or what your hobbies are?
- Do you stammer, stutter, or struggle getting your words out? What do you do?
- How confident are you when talking about your entrepreneurial pursuits, and why?
Second, pick one thing you would like to work on the most – one skill that would noticeably make you a better, more articulate communicator.
- Is it confidence?
- Is it listening?
- Is it nonverbal communication (or the lack of distracting nonverbal?)
- Is it the mechanics of speech?
- Is it preparation, being able to formulate what you want to say?
- Is it the tone of your voice?
- Is it something else?
Third, develop a plan for how to develop that skill, with these three steps:
- Research people with that skill (try watching a Ted Talk on YouTube looking specifically for the skill you want to emulate, and write down what you see).
- Visualize yourself giving that same talk to a group of people. See yourself emulate the specific skill you chose to see in your model speaker.
- Practice this skill in simple, normal conversation with people. Try to be as natural as possible… if you did steps one and two properly, it should start to feel easier and easier.
What Can You Do Today to be a Better Communicator?
Best wishes on your journey to better communication! I wish you well, and many happy conversations.
I’d love to hear your comments and experiences… please share them below this article.