Verbal Communication Skills

Communication skills are needed to be able to provide an excellent presentation. Without being able to verbalize your ideas and opinions there is very little chance of having a successful presentation. We will begin by looking at listening and hearing skills, asking the correct questions and finish with communicating with more power.

Listening and Hearing: They Aren’t the Same Thing
Hearing is the act of perceiving sound by the ear. Assuming an individual is not hearing-impaired, hearing simply happens. Listening, however, is something that one consciously chooses to do. Listening requires concentration so that the brain processes meaning from words and sentences. Listening leads to learning.This is not always an easy task. The normal adult rate of speech is 100-150 words per minute, but the brain can think at a rate of 400-500 words per minute, leaving extra time for daydreaming, or anticipating the speaker’s or the recipient’s next words. Listening skills, however, can be learned and refined.

Asking Questions
Three types of questions are useful in a presentation; open questions, clarifying questions, and closed questions.Open Questions: Open questions stimulate thinking and discussion or responses including opinions or feelings. They pass control of the conversation to the respondent. Leading words in open questions include: Why, what, or how. A statement such as “describe the characteristics of the car” is really an open question.

Examples of open questions include:

  • Describe the style of the leader of the meeting.
  • How do you feel when you hit a home run?

Asking questions is both an art and a science.

Your questions in a presentation should be:

  • Clear and concise, covering a single issue
  • Reasonable, based on what participants are expected to know
  • Challenging, to provoke thought
  • Honest and relevant, eliciting logical answers

Clarifying Questions: A clarifying question helps to remove ambiguity, elicits additional detail, and guides you as you answer a question. Below are some examples:

  • You said you liked apples more than oranges, why is that?
  • What sort of savings are you looking to achieve?

Closed Questions: Closed questions usually require a one-word answer, and shut off discussion. Closed questions provide facts, allow the questioner to maintain control of the conversation, and are easy to answer. Typical leading words are: Is, can, how many, or does.

Below are several examples of closed questions:

  • Who will lead the meeting?
  • Do you know how to open the emergency exit door on this aircraft?

Phrasing: To evoke an answer, your question should use phrasing that is:

  • Clear and concise, covering a single issue
  • Reasonable, based on what participants are expected to know
  • Challenging, to provoke thought
  • Honest and relevant, directing participants to logical answers.

Directing Questions appropriately: Should you direct your questions to individuals or to an entire group?

When you direct a question to an individual, you:

  • Stimulate one participant to think and respond
  • Tap the known resources of an “expert” in the room

If you choose to direct your question to the group instead, you:

  • Stimulate the thinking of all participants
  • Provide participants the opportunity to respond voluntarily
  • Avoid putting any one person on the spot.

The following exercise provides practice with questioning concepts and techniques.

Communicating with Power
It’s been said that you have between thirty seconds and two minutes to capture your participants’ attention. It’s critical to engage people from the beginning.Voice: 38% of the message received by a listener is governed by the tone and quality of your voice. The pitch, volume, and control of your voice all make a difference in audience perception.

Characteristics Description Tips
Pitch How high or low your voice is Avoid a high-pitched sound. Speak from your stomach, the location of your diaphragm.
Volume The loudness of your voice must be governed by your diaphragm Speak through your diaphragm, not your throat
Quality The color, warmth, and meaning given to your voice Add emotion to your voice.
Smile as much as possible when you are speaking

Command: Selecting a good opener is an important way to take command of an audience. Making judicious use of certain types of remarks will endear you to the audience from the moment the program starts.

  • A dramatic story
  • A reference to a current or well-known news story
  • A personal experience
  • A rhetorical question
  • A historical event
  • Adventure, either past or present.

More Tips

  • Did we say practice? And practice again?
  • Smile
  • Stand up straight and tall
  • Rivet your participants with eye contact
  • Dress like your audience, or one level above it.