Communication creates understanding among people and allows us to exchange ideas and information. A seemingly simple process, many struggle with communication in various forms. Whether its apprehension about public speaking or reservations about creating your social media presence online, inspiring communication for professional gain can be, at times, intimidating. As a professional women who has studied communication in academic and professional contexts for over 15 years, I decided to come up with a list of items that I believe are most relevant to communicating effectively whether you are showing up in person or online.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve had the privilege of presenting variations of this topic to a few different audiences of women. Each time, the invitation to the speaking engagement started out with an open topic of my choosing to present to a group of female professionals and I commonly found myself revisiting the same themes each time.
Tip 1 Own what you know and be ok with what you don’t:
It seems that an assumption exists where many of us feel that needs to know everything in order to put ourselves out there. Instead, we should simply own what we know, accept that we do not know everything, and be willing to be honest about where those knowledge gaps lie. We exist in a “fake it until you make it” culture. I challenge that by saying that we should take pride in owning what you know and sharing what we know really well with others; however, we should not feel intimidated by what we do not know. View your gaps in knowledge as opportunities to learn and grow.
Tip 2 Invite collaboration and opportunities to learn:
In the spirit of celebrating the freedom of escaping the pressure of not being expected to know it all, it is important to consider partnering with others to fosters growth in knowledge and experience. Collaborating with people with skills and interests that complement your own maximizes creative and procedural growth. Everyone can bring their respective expertise and skills to the table and engage in knowledge sharing while working together to accomplish tasks and goals.
Tip 3 Listen:
We have all seen the meme that states something along the lines of the problem with our communication is that we listen to respond instead of to understand. While we may only think of listening as an in-person task, we are now engaging in endless social listening in our mediated world. The skill and practice of listening is incredibly valuable to truly understanding your client or audience, online or offline, and building a relationship. This is vital to be regarded as an authority.
Tip 4 Be relatable, but most importantly, be authentic:
Speaking of becoming an authority, there is a great deal of discussion surrounding influencers today, particularly on social media. I believe there is a difference among thought leaders, subject matter experts, and influencers. Each has the ability to impact others within their communities and often reach them in different ways. No matter your approach, in order to grab attention of the audience and resonate with them is to be relatable. Sometimes, people try to hard to get their community to like them and find themselves in a situation where they may not have clarity on their vision and values and how they interrelate to their online and offline persona. This is why it is critical to be authentic. By being genuine to your audience and allowing them to see and know you for you and all that you own, practice, and envision, you gain credibility as people come to know you as an authentic authority.
Tip 5 Lead by example:
The fifth and final tip for inspired communication is to lead by example. Whether you are online or offline in front of an audience, it is important to consider your potential impact and influence and determine how to best provide value and solutions. By continuing to develop a leadership mindset, you are inviting ongoing personal and professional growth. We’ve all heard the saying “you never know who is watching” and this is very true in our culture where we are all uber connected and have a huge window into each other’s worlds. By serving as a leader among your online and offline connections and community you have the opportunity to set an example as a role model that can inspire others around you in meaningful ways. Demonstrating effective communication skills contribute to leadership capability; thus, I encourage your ongoing professional development with communication in leadership.
About the author:
Margaret C. Stewart, SMS, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Communication Studies at the University of North Florida (UNF) where she teaches courses in communication theory, professional public speaking, mediated communication, and strategic social media in the School of Communication. She is also a certified Social Media Strategist (SMS) and trainer through the National Institute for Social Media (NISM) and a consultant for Socially Inspired, LLC. She offers training and coaching on social listening, social media for crisis management, public speaking, interview training, and communication in leadership. Margaret is passionate about sharing her knowledge with students, practitioners, and fellow educators, and is committed to providing training that is engaging, valuable, and empowering. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org