Communication - Public speaking, good writing and conversation
Getting your message across to the people who matter (your audience) by being brief, interesting, informative
How to write better (BASRA)
- concentrate on the key issues.
- make recommendations as clearly as possible.
- use the minimum number of words to maximum effect.
- be prepared to revise, edit and clarify your original draft (usually more than
Be precise with your facts, grammar, punctuation and spelling.
a) use plain English
Avoid clichés, jargon (if possible) and unnecessarily long words.
b) simple sentences
Keep your sentences as short as possible.
c) short paragraphs
Normally break up any paragraph that is longer than 12 lines.
d) use the positive (if possible)
(e.g. say ‘be good’ not ‘don’t be bad’).
e) use lists (numbered/bullet points)
(to break up complicated text).
4. Remember and know your readers
a) write clearly
Use words that they will understand.
b) avoid racism and sexism
Don’t say ‘he’ when the person could be female (better to use the plural ‘they’).
c) bring your writing alive (like JK
Rowling, pictured right)
- use lively and evocative verbs and adjectives.
- give impact to your first and last sentences.
- be active (e.g. ‘John is writing a letter’ not ‘his letter is being written by John).
- use an eye catching and meaningful title for emails
Examine the pros and cons of an issue.
6. Be positive
Suggest to the reader what you would like the next step to be e.g. buy your product, or get an interview.
How to be a good public speaker
PISS stands for preparation, impact, structure and satisfaction - here they are...
Know your subject, practise the speech, check visual aids (e.g. Power Point) and relax beforehand with slow,
(like Martin Luther King pictured right
giving his 'I have a dream' speech)
a) be original
Don’t repeat what your audience already knows.
b) be passionate, enthusiastic and entertaining
(use humour to illustrate your points).
c) keep it short
(maximum 20 minutes).
d) never read from a script
(use memory cards, if necessary).
e) use vivid images,
(including similes, metaphors and stories/anecdotes).
f) transport the audience into different situations
(e.g. say ‘imagine that’).
g) don’t over-inform
(but use creative flair to bring the talk alive).
h) interact with the audience
- treat it like an informal chat.
- allow discussion because people like it.
i) use clear and entertaining visual aids (like multi-media) to clarify key points
Don’t over-rely on Power Point (some people avoid it altogether!).
Face to face communication is more effective than written or printed messages.
White (or blue) is easiest to read on slides.
j) speak slowly and clearly
Use pauses for impact.
Repeat important points for reinforcement.
k) handle post-speech questions
(with clarity, intelligence and authority).
3. Structure (and simplicity)
Keep it simple stupid (KISS)!
Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address in 1863 (pictured right) was only 272 words and 3 minutes long.
Focus on one key message based on three to five key issues.
The talk should logically follow from one point to another:
1st Introduction (key message and objectives)
3rd Conclusions and recommendations.
4. Satisfaction - know your audience
Satisfy your audience by:
- empathy (putting yourself in their shoes)
- responding to their expectations, motivations, mentality and attitudes (known as the
So speak entertainingly with:
- passion and purpose (the talk must achieve clearly defined objectives).
Tips for good conversation
Start the conversation by:
- stating an opinion or fact
- asking questions about the other person, or the situation you’re in.
Ask open questions which require more than a yes/no answer.
Say ‘What do you think about this report?’ not ‘Do you like this report?’
Understand the other person -
- put yourself in his (or her) shoes.
But don’t be a pushover – know what you want and stick to it, unless the other person persuades you
- be enthusiastic about what the other person likes.
(just like Princess Diana, pictured right) .
Listen to everything the other person says so that you can make appropriate responses.
- treat the other person as your equal.
“What is written without effort is in general read without
- Samuel Johnson
(English writer, pictured right).
Good communication is hard work and takes lots of practice, re-writing and understanding. If you can’t explain
it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.
“The mouth speaks what the heart is full of”
(founder of Christianity).
Good words come from a good heart. So be modest and sincere. “The truth is always the strongest
argument”, the Greek playwright, Sophocles (pictured right), said.
“A word spoken in due season, how good it is”
- Book of Proverbs (chapter 15 verse 23
in the Bible).
The effectiveness of communication depends on when, not just how, it is done.
People will be more receptive to a message if
a) they understand it
b) circumstances require it (e.g. in a crisis – think of Winston Churchill’s, pictured right, wartime speeches in
“I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand”, said the Chinese
“Easy reading is damn hard writing”
Hawthorne (American writer, pictured right).
Good writing is hard work and must dig deeply into your emotions. “No writing has any real value which
is not the expression of genuine thought and feeling”, Eleonor Roosevelt said.
“E-mails get in the way of serious consideration of what you want to
Geldof (businessman and campaigner for Africa, pictured right).
Remember the sole purpose of communication is to make you better at your job or relationships.
“We have two ears and one mouth that we may listen the more and talk the
- Zeno (Greek philosopher, pictured
You learn more from listening than talking. “Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening
when you’d rather have been talking”, another Greek philosopher, Aristotle, said.
Desmond Morris (pictured
right), Manwatching (1977)
Body language is important. Hand, leg and feet movements and body postures express our thoughts and feelings
(e.g. folded arms indicate defensiveness).
Martin Cutts, The Oxford Plain English Guide (1985)
Despite what other people might say, you can:
- start a sentence with ‘but’ or ‘and’.
- end a sentence with a proposition e.g. in, with, by, on, etc.
- split infinitives (e.g. ‘to carefully remove’).
- put a comma before ‘and’.
- write a one sentence paragraph.
Your favourite book
Learn from the reasons why you think the book is so well written.