Tips for entrepreneurs not spoken for
Entrepreneurs face an assortment of challenges, and many of them spring from ineffective communication. They look for better ways to talk with their people and customers. With that, the business owners can turn more of their attention to productivity and sales.
He explained how physical presence, language skills and vocal patterns “have a tremendous effect on your desired image and message.”
He said that perfecting this presence will lead to successful outcomes during interviews, networking events and sales pitches. Good communication also results in better customer service and more effective team meetings. Underlying each of these is confidence, according to Gurganious.
“For interviewing — including as interviewer and interviewee — the first skill is listening, regardless of which side of the table you’re on,” he said. “You need hard, gritty listening skills. Listen in the moment instead of thinking of what you’re going to say because you’ll miss something.”
He noted that Steven R. Covey said, “The biggest communication problem we have is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply.”
Communication distractors also include filler words such as “Um” and “Hmm.”
“Beware of filler words,” Gurganious said. “Listeners start to become aware of filler words, which are distracting and dilute your message. Become a more engaged messenger. Your message is more dynamic when you filter out distractions.”
He recommended a Toastmasters’ technique called the “Ah counter” in which a listener keeps track of filler words used during a speech. Rather than embarrass the speaker, talkers become more aware of their habit and tend to use filler words less over time.
Preparation — and the confidence that goes with it — will also make speakers less susceptible to using Ahs and Ums, according to Gurganious.
He suggested other tools Toastmasters use to improve speaking, regardless if during face-to-face interviews or in front of an audience:
- Speech evaluator: Listen and create notes about a speech. Then give a speech evaluating the speech. Listen hard and force yourself into critical listening skills.
- Focus to provide a helpful environment for speaking, which will help you improve.
- Develop impromptu speaking and listening skills.
Pitch the sale
Entrepreneurs also make sales pitches, which need to be compelling.
“Focus on crafting a tight introduction, body and conclusion,” Gurganious said. “Master control of the message you gave in the introduction. Don’t have dual messages. You need one controlling idea that you want to get out.”
He offered tips to help people hear:
- Use vivid, short words and short sentences. Speak for the ear.
- Body language: Listeners’ comprehension improves dramatically with the use of hand gestures.
- Focus on vocal variety. Monotones are not effective. You are responsible for people not dozing off.
Riveting stories also keep listeners’ attention.
“A compelling event is a reason to get off the fence and buy,” Gurganious said. “Public speaking is a performance art.”
As with all successful entrepreneurs, practice counts.
“You need to be ready to put in the work and practice,” Gurganious said. “If you are willing to do the work, you will achieve success and confidence.”
He suggested using a timer to hone messages for all occasions.
“Develop you your message so you can pitch in 30 seconds or several minutes — whatever the time allows,” he said. “You have to work in the period allotted. This forces the mind to focus on time.”
Customer service is essential for continuing business, yet it can fail several ways as Gurganious explained:
- Not listening. If you’re at the other end of the phone and feel your problem is not considered important, you have an enemy for life.
- Afraid to talk to people you don’t know. You need to desensitize over time.
- Find the idea of serving other people repugnant. Your job is to serve other people with a smile. Some people have a subtle way of trashing ideas. You need to have an appropriate and positive demeanor.
Team meetings are another communication challenge, and Gurganious had suggestions.
“Rotate team leaders,” he said. “Learn how to delegate. Ask people to do something for you to complete your job.”
If communication fails, and you’re in a quandary, Gurganious said, “Take action. If you are not happy with where you are, do something about it.”
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