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.