Training on the Most Important Aspect of Communicating Complex Content

Think about the work you've done for the past few days. Did you do any of it without communicating with anyone else? Probably not.

This makes communication (and training on communication) important. While this is true for most, it is even more important for individuals with highly technical backgrounds with complex content and awkward stereotypes. (Have you heard the one about the extroverted engineer? When she talks to you, she looks at your shoes instead of her own.)

Since it's so important, a few weeks ago, my team gathered for a 4-hour session to practice multiple forms of communication. We discussed and practiced topics that I thought would serve the team well whether they were communicating in a meeting, a one-on-one conversation, or a conference presentation:
  • Nonverbal Communication
  • Networking 
  • Question & Answer
I've heard that 93% of communication is nonverbal, but that has been inferred from Albert Mehrabian's research. His actual finding attributes 7% of a message to verbal (i.e. the content), 39% to vocal (i.e. tone), and 55% to facial (i.e. expressions and eye contact). Source

But it can be overwhelming to think about all of the aspects of nonverbal communication. While we discussed all of those aspects, I focused on eye contact. When done effectively, it does two pretty important things:
  1. Establishes trust, validating you as a speaker and your content as truthful and valuable
  2. Provides a feedback loop - how else will you know when someone isn't engaged! 
There are quite a few eye contact "dos and don'ts", but I like a technique from Jerry Weissman's Presenting to Win:
Speak Only to Eyes, where you only speak when you're making eye contact. You maintain eye contact with one person for at least one complete sentence and pause when you're transitioning between people. The technique takes some practice, but once mastered, it's quite effective. And it has the added benefit of cutting out some of the "ums" and "ahs" we add between sentences. 
After we discussed this and other techniques, I gave each team member 30 minutes to prepare a 2 minute presentation (with no visuals) on a technical topic of their choice. During the presentations, the team and I rated each person's use of nonverbal techniques.

While everyone varied in their capability, I was really proud to see each person find at least a moment of success with Speak Only to Eyes. And since the training, two team members have submitted to present at a BIMForum conference and another participated comfortably and effectively in a project interview!

If you're interested in an overview of my recent nonverbal communication training, including the rating form we used a few weeks ago, click the button below to download.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend things that I personally personally and believe will add value. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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