Becoming a Skilled Business Communicator – Part Two
The saying is that a picture is worth a thousand words, and according to David Eghbali that's never been more true than today. A good info graphic, table, or data visualization can show far more than a verbal explanation, and graphics tend to stick in the audience's mind. This is becoming increasingly important as more businesses incorporate data analytics in their strategy. If you are working on a data project, then you need to learn how to communicate your results and findings to people who do not share your technical background. Graphs and visualizations are a key part of your arsenal for accomplishing that. They can convey the story behind the data without requiring you to explain all of the details that went into the analysis. That's key, because you can share your biggest insights with management or other teams who stand to benefit from what you have learned, but who don't have the context to understand all the specifics.
Don't go overboard on graphics, because they can get annoying and appear too cute if you rely on them too much. David Eghbali believes that there is no hard and fast rule for how much to use them, but try to sprinkle them in when it makes sense. If using an image instead of, say, text on a slide makes it easier or take less time to explain something, then using that graphic is probably a good move. But if your image is complex or hard to explain, then it might not be anything more than a distraction.
Whenever you have a big presentation, it is tempting to rehearse it over and over again so that you memorize every word you need to say. This brings you a sense of security because you feel that you have mastered the material. David Eghbali recommends that you try another approach, though. You can practice your presentation once or twice to make sure it is sound, but don't memorize it. That takes away your flexibility, which will give you problems when you encounter an unexpected question. It also has the effect of boring your audience, because someone who has memorized their spiel entirely tends to be monotonic and less interactive. You need to know the basic outline of what you want to say and when, but if you are making this presentation, and then your bosses trust you to understand the fundamentals of your topic. You don't need to memorize everything to prove that to them. Moreover, the more scripted you are, the more likely you are to nervously fumble and become derailed if something does not go according to plan. Ironically, the action you take to make yourself more secure and comfortable can be your downfall. Don't let that happen to you and avoid being too scripted.
David Eghbali's last piece of advice is to relax as much as you can. Whether it really is a big presentation or a casual email, nervousness shows. Nobody in your audience wants you to fail: in fact, everyone wants you to succeed. There is nothing to be nervous about. You can build up your confidence by deepening your knowledge of the subject matter and with other methods. For example, many people use mindfulness meditation or yoga to calm themselves. There are many techniques you can use to reduce stress both before and during communication, such as breathing exercises. David Eghbali's goal is not to provide a list of recommended approaches, but to make the point that staying relaxed and in control is possibly the single biggest factor in ensuring successful communication. Of course, the best way to relax is to gain experience. Everyone is nervous the first time they have to talk to their boss or lead a team, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Remember, this is not just about your audience: you should be getting something out of it too, and if you are too nervous and caught up in the moment, you won't. You may even reach the point where you look forward to these opportunities, but even if you don't, you might as well put yourself in the best position to succeed and feel good about it. David Eghbali always reminds us that communication is a dialogue and both parties should be benefiting from the exchange. Don't pass up a chance to gain from the experience.