The Best Way to Improve Your Communication Skills
In January 1996, Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates wrote an essay about the future of the Internet. The title of his piece was “Content Is King.” He believed the fledgling online world of the 1990s and 2000s would take a path similar to the one broadcast media had up to that point, where the people who created content would be the influencers, not the technologists. Now, more than twenty-five years later, his assertion has proven true, and his statement about content has been repeated thousands of times by content creators, business executives, marketers, and media moguls.
If content is king, then communication is queen.
They rule together, and they cannot be separated. What value does content have if it’s not communicated to anyone? And what value does communication have if there is no content?
Hone the Craft of Communication with the Help of Others
One of the greatest challenges speakers face is the fact that the average person hears thousands of messages every day. Communicators are vying for people’s attention in this environment. In a world where you can instantaneously access content on virtually any subject, how can you make your content and message stand out? How will you grab people’s attention and hold it long enough to make a positive impact on them?
You work at it.
And how do you work at it?
Enlist the help of other people.
AVOIDING THE BIGGEST COMMUNICATION MISTAKE
I didn’t understand this when I started my speaking career. I began as a Lone Ranger. My professional speaking and leadership careers started at the same time, when I was twenty-two. Back then, I believed that if I asked for help, the people who listened to me and followed me would view me as weak. And they would stop following and stop listening. As a result, I tried to do every leadership and speaking task myself. If I had a problem, I worked alone to figure it out on my own. When I got an idea, I’d think, I’ll work on this until it’s really good. Then when I share it with people, everyone will think I’m brilliant. What a mistake!
It would take me a decade to understand what would become what I call the Law of Significance, which says one is too small a number to achieve greatness. The same applies to communication. One is too small a number to achieve excellence.
DEBUNKING THE BIGGEST COMMUNICATION ASSUMPTION
Relying 100 percent on myself early in my career created two glaring problems for me. First, I often taught based on assumption. I assumed that I knew what people needed, but of course, I didn’t. That meant I often spoke on subjects no one wanted to hear about, giving solutions they were not looking for. Thank goodness my audience was grace-giving and took my youth and inexperience into consideration. The second problem was that everything I communicated was from my own limited personal experience and perspective. Again, that meant I missed so much and often failed to connect with people.
As journalist and author William H. Whyte observed, “The great enemy of communication . . . is the illusion of it.” I assumed I was communicating and connecting, but often I was talking only to myself. Back then, I didn’t know the Law of Collaboration, which says some of your best thinking will be done with others.
MASTERING THE MOST IMPORTANT COMMUNICATION SKILL
Being a good communicator is a journey, not a destination. I estimate that it took me about eight years to find, develop, and refine my style. That may sound like a long time, but it was worth the effort. Was I done learning at that point? No. I didn’t stop then, and I still haven’t. I’ve been speaking for more than fifty years, but I continue to learn and grow. What I’ve learned in that time, I’ve compiled in my upcoming book, The 16 Undeniable Laws of Communication.
I want you to be a remarkable communicator. I believe you can! And this book will help.
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