7 Top Communication Skill Tips From TEDTalks - This is the Life! - Build the Life of Your Dreams

7 Top Communication Skill Tips From TEDTalks

June 07, 2020

Female leader communicating at work

Everybody talks about communication skills but why are they so important?

Good communication is crucial in every aspect of our lives. 

For one, it is key to maintaining good personal relationships

The biggest source of conflict between people (especially in romantic relationships) is a lack of communication. But we can't really blame another person for not guessing what was secretly on our minds, can we?

Plus, having good communication skills is the top way to get ahead in the career world

Those who can communicate their ideas more effectively will end up selling themselves as potential leaders as they sound more confident and knowledgeable.

Needless to say, having good relationships and a successful career will boost our self-esteem and ultimately, make us happier.

So, how can you improve your communication skills?

Watching TEDTalks is already a great way for you to learn how to improve your communication skills, since they usually bring on some great speakers. 
If you pay attention to their body language or their tricks to maintain the audience's attention, you will probably get some great pointers. 

I decided to do you one better and compile a list of the top communication tips shared by these great speakers that will easily help you become a more effective speaker:

1. Practice communicating (in the real world)

First and foremost, practice is the best way to ensure you'll become a great speaker. 

Antoni Lacinai, the speaker on this TEDTalk, alerts the audience to the fact that our ever-increasing dependence on technology for socialization is hindering our social and communication skills.

In order to practice for real life talks, we need to practice it in real life as well. 

So try to focus on prioritizing face to face communication so you can work on your communication skills and feel more at ease in the future.

people talking at work

2. Be strategic when communicating

This TEDTalk by Keisha Brewer is pretty amazing and full of very practical advice.

Her basic message is that when you're communicating, it's crucial to determine what your purpose is and find a way to showcase value to the other person in order to achieve that purpose.

In essence, it's all about finding a way to show your audience or the person you're talking to that a mutually-beneficial situation can result from that interaction.

According to Keisha, the way to go about this is to:

(i) First, identify your goal;
(ii) Then, you need to make sure you understand your audience (do research on the company or person or just observe them and get to know them);
(iii) After that, you're going to want to focus on how you can communicate the value of what you have to offer them; 
(iv) Finally, you want to show the other party that the value of your offer responds to a need that they have.

She gives great examples of how she applies this in real life and says these steps are fundamental to avoid the other party's resistance in interactions.

3. Learn to manage your anxiety

On his TEDTalk, Matt Abrahams teaches us several ways to manage our anxiety when speaking in public. 

When it comes to the 'physical symptoms' of this anxiety, he offers great suggestions on how you can manage them or tone them down, such as:

    - Take a deep breath before speaking to calm yourself down;

    - If your hands tend to shake, try to use broad gestures to diffuse some of that nervous energy;

    - To hold something cold in your hand to reduce your temperature, which will avoid blushing or nervous sweating.

Now, about the psychological aspect of anxiety, he says the main thing we should do is figure out where it comes from. You should ask yourself what your fears are and figure out methods to minimize them or to help you if the situation you fear comes about.

Some ideas he gives regarding the most common fears people have are:

  - If you're afraid of blanking or forgetting what you're going to say, he suggests making a map (a basic plan of your speech or presentation) so you always know what you planned to talk about next;

  - If you get nervous about the audience constantly watching and potentially judging you, Abrahams says the best thing you can do is to redirect their attention to something that engages them (like a video, a poll or asking them questions), giving you an opportunity to calm down and collect yourself, as well as increasing their interest with engagement.

a work meeting

4. Work on your voice (it shows who you are)

Wendy LeBorgne gave a really interesting TEDTalk focused on the voice as your means of communication. Basically, she says your voice is your brand and that as soon as you start speaking, people will judge you based on what they hear. 

She mentions the 5 main things about our voices and the way we talk that make up our 'voice brand' that we should be aware of:

 - First, the intensity (or volume) with which we speak - too loud and people will see you as rude and arrogant, too low and you'll be seen as shy and lacking confidence or unsure of what you're saying.

 - Then, the inflection or intonation we assume when we speak - if you speak with too many highs and lows in an extreme sing-song voice, you'll be perceived as unintelligent but if you speak in a flat tone for the entirety of your speech, you'll be seen as bored and uninterested. 

She also reminds us to avoid using up-speak (raising your voice at the end of an affirmative sentence, making it sound like a question) because it will make you seem unsure of yourself.

- There's also the rate (the speed in which you speak) but she interestingly states that people usually say that you should slow down your rate of speech but that doesn't really work to change your 'vocal brand' by itself - in fact, she says, what can change that is the connection or interaction between all the factors. 

She demonstrates perfectly how if you only slow down your speech you may sound more condescending. However, if you slow down your rate and include some interesting intonation, you will avoid this effect.

- Frequency (or how high or low pitched your voice is) will also make a huge impression on your audience - in the case of women, those who speak in a very high-pitched voice will often be seen as less intelligent, whereas those who speak at a very low pitch will sound authoritative (which can easily sound aggressive if you add some intensity to the way you speak). 

- Lastly, the quality of your voice (how clear or raspy/hoarse your voice is) can affect how interesting you sound.

So, knowing this, you can work on the aspects of your voice that might make people perceive you negatively on a first impression and use that to create a voice brand that reflects your real qualities.

5. Learn how to speak like a leader

On her TEDTalkLaura Sicola refers to this as a 'vocal executive presence'. 

She says that there is a lot more to sounding credible than just saying the right words. You have to learn how to sound like a leader. 

To do this, she says we need to be able to analyze our audience and figure out what kind of person they would be more open to receive the message you want to deliver and what this person would sound like (so you can adopt the appropriate way of delivering the message to them). 

Note that this doesn't mean you should be inauthentic - it means that it's all about context. That is to say that you should know how to act in different contexts and with different audiences to ensure they are open to receive your message. 

She gives the perfect example of talking to a small child, pointing out that we tend to speak in a very excited and motivational voice in these situations. When we do this, we're not being inauthentic but we know how we should speak to grab a small child's attention and, for example, motivate them to do something.

We have multiple aspects to our personalities and multiple colors in our voices and in each situation, we choose what part of our personality we let come out.

all-female work meeting

6.  Learn to use Powerpoint presentations effectively

This very funny TEDTalk about "How to Avoid Death By Powerpoint" by David JP Phillips gives amazing pointers on how to deliver great presentations aided by Powerpoint slides without boring your audience to death and actually getting your message across.

His Powerpoint tips can be summed up as follows:

 - Include only one message or idea per slide (it avoids getting your audience distracted with the wrong message at a particular moment);

 - Don't talk and make people read big sentences or paragraphs on your Powerpoint at the same time - they won't remember either of those messages. Instead, use your Powerpoint slide to show an image and key words or small bits of text to enhance what you're saying but not detract from it;

 - Size the objects in your slide appropriately - people tend to make titles the biggest thing in their Powerpoint slides but they are rarely the most important bit of information on the slide. The audience's attention will be grabbed by the biggest item on the slide so use that knowledge to direct their attention to where it matters;

 - Another way to direct the audience's attention is to use contrast to make people focus on certain aspects (he gives a great eye-catching example of going through a list or a table with information by emphasizing each line of the list or each column of the table as you're reading along it to direct people's attention somewhere else).

 - Avoid using bright backgrounds on Powerpoint presentations - you want the audience to pay attention to you and not just your Powerpoint because it is just a visual aid. But if you have a very big and bright white screen (or any other bright color) next to you, that is where people will look;

- No more than 6 objects per slide - if you insert more than 6 objects, your audience will have to put a lot more effort to focus on the slides (around 500% more, according to the speaker) which most likely means they won't pay attention.

In essence, all of this means you will have to have more slides in your Powerpoint presentation - and that is something you shouldn't be afraid of. According to him, the amount of information per slide is what detracts the audience from paying attention or getting the message out of your presentation, not the number of slides.

7. Know your audience's communication style

According to Amy Scott on her TEDTalk, researchers in New Zealand have established that there are essentially 4 communication styles that people adopt (which she identifies with colored dots to make it easier to remember):

 - Purple dots: People who talk a lot and don't stop to think before they speak - they are high-energy, interested in what people want from them (not how or why), they have lots of ideas and are great at starting projects;
 - Red dots: People who only speak after they have thoroughly thought things through - they talk in short and direct sentences, they are interested in facts and figures and are very straight-up, in their communication, they're interested in where they fit;

 - Yellow dots: People who process information with mental pictures - they like having lots of data so they can build pictures in their mind, they like to be in neat and tidy environments, they can spot spelling mistakes from miles away and like things done a certain way, they listen for the when in their communication (time is very important to them)

 - Blue dots: People who process information with their intuition - they are hands-on, they like to finish things and want everything to go well, so they are very good team players and in their communication, they listen for the "why" (they want to feel comfortable before starting a task).

Understanding that these different communication styles exist is crucial for us to realize that we all perceive and use communication differently. 

This will allow us to connect and understand others better without judging them or misconstruing their intentions. It can also help us realize how other people function and what information they require when communicating which will, ultimately, make communication more effective between you and other people.

What did you think of these tips? 
I hope you found them helpful. I gathered the tips that I found the most useful and that you can start applying right now to improve your communication skills.

Now, I challenge you to go to the comment box below and share any other tips you've learned along your journey! I'd love to hear from you!

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