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The Essence of Effective Communication

April 10, 2010


What does it mean to communicate effectively?

For a speaker, ‘communication’ implies that you have something of value to convey to the receiver.  To do that effectively means that your communication is received by the listeners and is understood by them in the way you intend.

How do you do that?  Effective communication has two objectives:

1. Your listeners must understand what you say.

2. Your listeners must feel what you feel.

Let’s take these one at a time:

1. Your Listeners Understand What You Say.

This is the “illumination” that your communication provides.  Notice this is not about impressing your audience.  It is about creating clarity.  To do that follow the age old principle — KISS (Keep it simple, speaker!).  Use simple words and short sentences.  Avoid using jargon when speaking to a general audience, but if you have to use jargon, explain what it means. When speaking to an international audience, avoid culturally loaded references.  For more information, see article — The Case for Simplicity — at

A great way to check that you have this focus on clarity is to give your speech to an elementary school-age child.  If you cannot make your message clear enough for a child to understand, then you have not mastered your message.  [This was one of the approaches I used to twice become a finalist at Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking and place second in 1992.]

2. Your Listeners Feel What You Feel

This is the “warmth” that your communication provides.  This is not about losing emotional control; it is about connecting with your listeners.  Unless your listeners feel what you feel, they will never really understand what you mean, although they may intellectually follow your message.

Most speakers are better at achieving clarity than at achieving connection.  That is, they know how to convey information for the mind.  To have your listeners feel what you feel, you have to touch them in the heart.  How do you do that?

Here are four ways:

  • Immerse yourself in the feelings that your words convey.  If you can’t feel it, you audience won’t.
  • Connect your voice and your body language to those feelings.  This is how you achieve natural vocal variety, gestures, and movement.
  • Let your face show what your heart feels.  A poker face is good only for playing poker.  A speaker, who is by definition a communicator, needs an expressive face. The words come alive in the face of the speaker.
  • Use the power of the pause.  The pause is one of the most powerful tools in a speakers tool box.  It focuses the attention of the audience on key words of the message and leads the audience to absorb the atmosphere you create for your story.

Clarity and connection, illumination and warmth — they will help you unleash your communication potential!