Improving Verbal and Nonverbal Communication

This is the third post in an occasional series about the importance of technical communication in the workplace.

The ability to speak and portray yourself professionally, efficiently, and effectively are the most important business skills any person can have other than skills required by a job title. Those who have impressive verbal/non-verbal communication skills on day one of a new job or during an interview stand out as strong, confident employees or candidates. Those who give a strong presentation during a conference or to coworkers stand out as experts in their field. Those who speak up and intelligently portray their thoughts on a matter stand out as leaders.

Communicating with others during an interview, presentation, or meeting can be daunting for some, especially if they lack experience in a work environment. Those with more experience in the workplace tend to understand how to portray the necessary information in an effective way. Usually these people are managers, executives or, in general, leaders because they are able to communicate in order to get the results they need, whether it be completed tasks or motivated employees.

It is important to note that the term verbal communication relates to the simple use of sounds and words, whereas the term non-verbal communication consists of other forms of communication. The way a person talks is not the only concern; the way a person physically portrays themselves is also important.

Technical Communication Today categorizes a person’s act of presenting a topic to a group by body language, appearance, voice, rhythm and tone. The categories can also be translated to include any type of interaction in the workplace, whether it be one-on-one (e.g., interview), one-to-many (e.g., presentation), or many-to-many (e.g., social gathering). Those five categories help frame the tips we can present to those who lack experience or who want to improve their verbal and non-verbal communication skills.

Focus on your body language
  • Control your facial expressions and think about how they are being conveyed to others. Is your facial expression conveying that you are happy or displeased?
  • Stand/sit up straight and drop your shoulders. Usually those who are nervous tend to slouch and raise their shoulders which limits airflow.
  • Make eye contact with others when they are speaking to you. This indicates that you are paying attention and that you are interested in what they are saying.
Dress for success
  • Dress appropriately for the occasion. Ensure that what you are wearing matches the importance of the situation. When in doubt, dress a level better than you expect others to dress.
Control your voice
  • Enunciate your words and phrases. This ensures that others are hearing you correctly.
  • Project your voice and speak louder than normal when presenting to a large group of people.
Focus on your speaking rhythm
  • Do not be afraid of silence. Embrace the silent moments and make them work in your favor. Use them to emphasize your main points or use them to avoid the um’s and ah’s of nervousness (i.e., think before you speak).
  • Slow your speech. Usually those who are nervous tend to speak too quickly.
Choose a tone for your voice
  • Select a tone based off of the image you want to project; e.g., professional, passionate, pleased.

Also, practice makes perfect. Do not assume that simply reading the above tips is sufficient in improving your skills. Practice and actively concentrate on them on a daily basis to further improve your verbal/non-verbal communication skills. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will be in professional settings and in front of an audience.

 

Resources:

  • Richard Johnson-Sheehan. “Technical Communication Today: Special Edition for Society for Technical Communication Foundation Certification”. Fifth Edition.

 

Samantha Zerger, business analytics consultant with the Financial Risk Group, is skilled in technical writing. Since graduating from the North Carolina State University’s Financial Mathematics Master’s program in 2017 and joining FRG, she has taken on leadership roles in developing project documentation as well as improving internal documentation processes.

 

 

Improving Business Email Etiquette

This is the second post in an occasional series about the importance of technical communication in the workplace.

According to The Radicati Group, Inc., based on a worldwide study in 2015, the number of business emails sent and received per user, per day totals 122, with a circulation of 112.5 billion worldwide. These statistics should reflect how much businesses rely on email communication skills on a daily basis. Because of the massive influx of emails, any employee at your workplace could most likely list three pet peeves of theirs regarding email communication. The following are the answers I got from a few FRG employees:

  • Emails that have a missing subject line or have no content
  • Emails that do not have a clear response to your question
  • Emails that do not get to the point quickly or are superfluous

How do we ensure that we are not the employees that are sending the above types of emails? How do we ensure that we are taking advantage of this easy communication tool to be efficient, productive, and constructive in the workplace? How do we ensure that we are communicating in a professional manner?

Follow these rules (in no particular order) on email etiquette to make sure you are sending correct and understandable information.

  1. Keep it simple. Use succinct sentences that get promptly to the point.
  2. Be professional. If you are not positive the receiver of the email knows who you are, briefly introduce yourself (e.g., state your name, job title, and purpose of email).
  3. Make it standalone. Suspect that the person did not read previous emails in the thread. Refresh their memory first on what the discussion was and then continue.
  4. Read the entire email before sending. Ensure that there are no typos and that the content makes sense.
  5. Make no assumptions. Do not assume that others understand what you are saying. Be clear in your statements/questions.
  6. Be consistent. Include a clear and intuitive subject and body content. Ensure that terms are being referenced the same in email threads to avoid confusion (e.g., Financial Risk Group vs. FRG).
  7. Always consider lists. Use bulleted lists to directly group lists, steps, questions, etc. Use numerical or alphabetical lists for items that need to be in a specific order and bullets for items that do not.
  8. Use parallel structure. Construct sentences so that readers can understand difficult concepts more quickly.
    • Parallel structure is especially important when writing lists. Begin each statement with the same part of speech. For example, if explaining steps in a process, use verbs such as type, click, or close to begin each statement.
    • Parallel structure can be used in comparisons. Repeat the same phrases in order to be clear. For example, the new user interface is more user-friendly than the old user interface.
    • Parallel structure can help define the format and/or layout. Repeat the same format and/or layout to ensure consistent organization. For example, if you include a bolded header for one topic, use a bolded header for each topic.

The above rules can be applied to emails sent to any reader, whether it be a co-worker, boss, client, future employer, etc. It is ultimately important to send clear, understandable statements and questions to ensure you receive a productive and expected response.

Samantha Zerger, business analytics consultant with the Financial Risk Group, is skilled in technical writing. Since graduating from the North Carolina State University’s Financial Mathematics Master’s program in 2017 and joining FRG, she has taken on leadership roles in developing project documentation as well as improving internal documentation processes.

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