Your boss pops in to ask your opinion on a topic. You’re unprepared and tempted to offer a tepid response, just to play it safe.
Don’t do that, urges Bill McGowan, a New York communications guru and an Emmy-award winning correspondent.
Instead, take a position and support it, even if your boss might disagree.
“It’s better to have a firm opinion and back it up than to have wishy-washy content conveyed through a hesitant delivery,” says McGowan, who with Alisa Bowman is co-author of “Pitch Perfect: How to Say It Right the First Time, Every Time. “ (HarperCollins, 2014)
This is just one example of how important it is for employees of all levels to be able communicate clearly and think on their feet. Knowing what to say and when to say it makes the difference when you’re looking to advance in your career – or simply keep your job.
“The right language, both verbal and nonverbal, can make you seem self-assured, persuasive and certain,” he adds.
McGowan says employees should be cognizant of how they would respond to all sorts of workplace situations. He says there are few speaking situations that you can’t prepare for ahead of time, such as updating your boss on your progress, calling a potential client or responding to an employment review.
Always take time to think in advance what you might say in a variety of situations. When possible, make an outline of how you’re going to make your point.
Besides preparation, McGowan offers the following tips for handling day-to-day communication at work (or anywhere):
• Avoid jargon, filler, showoff vocabulary and verbose sentence structure. Keep it simple, straightforward and clean.
• Start with your best material. Think of it like a headline that will prompt others to want more.
• Hold attention with visual images that illustrate a story. Always find stories or examples to support what you’re saying.
• Slow down and know that anxiety forces everyone to speak faster. Maintain a moderate pace so you can think and progress in a more focused manner.
• Be concise. When in doubt, cut more out. If people want more, they’ll ask for it.
• Convey certainty with words, eye contact, posture and tone of voice.
• Display genuine interest in the person that you are speaking with and in the topic. Always maintain an engaged facial expression.
• Stay on point and direct the conversation flow so that it plays to your strengths. If it strays elsewhere, redirect it to an area where you can shine.
© CTW Features