Effective Communication
CareerU with Ryan, Volume II

Let’s explore the idea of “effective communication.” Communicating in a university and workplace setting in a way that is efficient and garners respect will help you succeed in all your endeavors. I have found that having the ability to communicate well is connected to a person’s success. I’ve met many people who are technically smarter than me, but are unable to speak in a way that people can easily understand, digest and act on. You could say the same thing for many of your professors. There are the good ones and there are the bad ones, and communication – lecture style, directions on assignments, etc. – often makes the difference.

Professors are virtually experts in the field they are teaching and possess a wealth of knowledge that they want to pass along to you. In theory, they should be able to do so in ways that make sense, help you retain information, and is relevant to both the overall topic and any material you would be tested on. The good professors achieve this through straightforward messaging and easy to understand vocabulary. Bad professors – or rather, ineffective professors – use language that goes above students’ heads and fail to find ways to explain concepts that apply to instances you can relate to (and therefore better understand). The result: a mixed state of understanding and comprehension that impairs your ability to learn, grow and translate information into real insights.

The same goes for the workplace. I’ve had many colleagues who are considered gifted based on their intellect or abilities. Yet, they often can’t present information in a way that makes sense. Common pitfalls include over-using acronyms and technical terms, reading directly off PowerPoint slides rather than expanding on them more conversationally, and using language that may sound impressive but ultimately goes above others’ heads. The result: confused and frustrated colleagues with no sense of what they have just been told and no idea what the next steps are.

So, how can you develop effective communication skills so that these communication pitfalls don’t become your reality? Don’t worry – I’ve got you covered. Here are six key strategies to keep in mind that will help you master effective communication:

1. Use language that everyone can understand, and keep it short and simple. Simplicity and clarity are the most important tools in effective communication. The clearer language you use, the easier it will be for your audience to understand.
2. Over-communicate. Often, it takes communicating more than once for a listener to comprehend and digest what you are saying. Make sure you emphasize your key points
3. Make it fun. Try to convey things in a positive, fun and lighthearted tone from time to time. This makes your points easier to digest. On the flip side, be sure you know when you need to take a more serious tone.
4. Apply it to real life. Tying your message back to real-life situations makes it more relatable to your audience. Create analogies when possible.
5. Read your audience. Look at the body language and facial expressions of those you are speaking to, whether your audience is just a couple of people or a room of fifty. If you see your audience is not engaged, try to adjust how you are conveying your message.
6. Be self-aware. If you have a high level of self-awareness, you will know when you might be accidentally slipping in to any of the effective communication pitfalls and shortcomings.

Finally, I want to emphasize that none of this is easy! As with all other soft skills, it takes practice to become an effective communicator. Every opportunity – whether it’s a major presentation, a two-minute update on a topic, or even just giving instructions to a colleague or classmate – is more experience under your belt in becoming a strong, clear communicator.