It’s easy for soloists to let their verbal communication skills lapse. If you worry about what to say at a networking event and would rather email than pick up the phone, your verbal skills may be a bit rusty.
It doesn’t help that we typically work in isolation. It’s not as if the cat’s interested in what we have to say! So how do you improve these verbal skills in the absence of the hustle of a more typical office?
As a fan of the TV show The West Wing; I’ve watched with interest and amusement the “grooming” of the character Toby Ziegler from Communications Director to White House Press Secretary. In addressing the media, his assistant constantly reminds him to use the verbal communication skills of wooing a woman. To be “witty and seductive.”
In winning over our clients or the media perhaps we don’t need to go that far but is does pay to put some personality into your customer communication.
Us soloists need to ensure each meeting or contact counts. We spend so much of our time setting up appointments, meeting new clients, networking and making connections with a number of new people. We are engaged with our personal and professional PR – communicating who we are, what we do and how we make a difference. How we communicate this truly matters.
Effective verbal communication is particularly important when building relationships with clients, customers and the media. A stimulating conversation or well-told story may be the most interesting part of a meeting, presentation or media interview. Even witty small talk with a potential client can evolve into a new business deal or project. Here are few conversation pointers and verbal communication skills to keep in mind when meeting or networking.
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1. A good business introduction includes your first and last name and the name of your company.
2. Always introduce yourself to those sitting next to you at a business dinner. If possible, meet everyone at your table before you sit down. Sit next to someone you don’t know rather than someone you do know.
3. When introducing your guest or another person at a function, mention both first and last names and perhaps an interesting item of information about that person.
4. Before going to an event, business or social, be prepared to discuss items of current interest including books, films, television shows, or current events.
5. You can find your next conversation starter by reading at least one daily newspaper, weekly news magazine, or watching a morning news show.
6. Take the time to get to know others first. People don’t care about you and what you do until they know you care about them. Build relationships and trust first.
7. Beware of being a pushy promoter. We’re often so passionate and excited about our business or latest project that we talk too much and oversell ourselves.
8. Listen closely and think before you speak. Don’t interrupt, let the other person finish their thought before you give your opinion. Learn to do 80 percent of the listening and just 20 percent of the talking.
9. Listen attentively, smile and make good eye contact.
10. Practise the five words that help create and maintain small talk conversation by forming open-ended questions. The five words are: Who, What, When, Where and Why.