Crushing Your Professional Communication

Let’s talk about crushing your communications. Ironic since we live in a world of short, emoji-filled text messages where misspellings and grammar are overlooked and, according to my Gen Z-er, it is often acceptable. But in business communication, don’t discount writing. Eloquently composing a congratulatory note to your department or a point of view on a project is crucial. Using good grammar and correct spelling is mandatory. Having good writing skills is still required to be a successful executive. There is no getting around it.

I grew up a voracious reader, but not necessarily a writer. It is like everything in life; practice helps. I write a substantial amount now, from blogs to course outlines. As a result, I have a writing hack for you: Grammarly. You can download it as an app or a browser extension, depending on the device. It corrects my spelling, grammar, and for a premium membership, offers up rephrasing options. Honestly, it is like having an editor on my shoulder. I love it and use it daily. It elevates my writing game. I’m sure there are other apps, totally cool. Use them or not, but don’t expect your eyes alone to catch every mistake; it’s unrealistic.

As a young woman, I knew that to be a successful executive, I also needed to be a good speaker. Inspired to improve my public speaking, I joined Toastmasters in grad school and honed my skills, albeit this was 20 plus years ago. This strategy worked for me, but you do you! Whatever way you like to up your game and sharpen your talents, take a class, read a book on public speaking, practice in front of a mirror, or join a group like Toastmasters. The key is to put in the work and not underestimate the value of perfecting your speaking skills. It’s also worth emphasizing that being a good speaker today is about more than having charisma; it requires speaking with authenticity, honesty, and connecting with the audience. Times have changed; the audience’s expectations have too. Showing up as your genuine self and building a connection with your audience is essential.

The best speakers are also strong storytellers. People love stories; we have a higher recall when ideas shared are in story form. To build a connection with your audience, share a little about yourself or open with a relatable story for your audience. When speaking with groups, I like to share my background, passion for supporting women in their career journey, and a short story related to my topic. My goal is to help the audience get to know me and develop receptivity and trust. PS, if you want to throw a little humor in, do it! It works wonders!

These days, we live much of our lives on Zoom/Webex and all the other virtual platforms. As a coach and speaker, I haven’t met with a client in person or spoke to a group face-to-face in ten months. With WFH, everyone now needs to be video ready. Being comfortable with the technology and set-up is mandatory. Here’s a quick refresher! 

First and foremost, set up your workspace with a professional background. That means no beds, no mess, and I encourage you not to use a virtual background. Sure, the Golden Gate Bridge as a backdrop seems like a great solution when your home office is sloppy. However, the sides of your face and body will often disappear when the camera is on you — distracting to the viewer. Honestly, it just looks weird and unnatural.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a loud, booming voice. However, as a woman, a lower pitch is more resonant. With practice, you can modulate your speaking voice. Research shows that a lower pitch increases your perceived authority and is more pleasing for the listener. Also, you need the right equipment. A microphone that is not on your laptop is an improvement. Set up additional lighting too. I use a ring light; they’re not just for influencers and beauty bloggers! Bonus, they are only about $35. And PLEASE, turn your camera on for all meetings and don’t multitask. You don’t want your boss or peers to think that you are “checked out.” Instead, demonstrate that you are fully engaged, ask questions, show your interest. 

For my final tips, don’t forget to pump up your energy level and speak slower! These apply to both virtual calls and public speaking (once those opportunities are possible again). These tips will help you speak more clearly, emphasize essential details, and better engage your audience. Once you are ready — crush it!

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Kim Martin

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