So many things keep us trapped in our own heads. When it comes to communicating with other people, there are some specific traps. We get nervous. We want to make sure we get it right. We focus on how much we need to tell them. If PowerPoint comes into play, we focus on the visuals being pretty. All of that is about us. But communicating with other people isn’t all about us; it’s about them.
Understanding your own communication style is critical. What are your tendencies and preferences? Are you comfortable with silence, or will you talk faster to fill it? If someone disagrees with you, are you likely to freeze or fight back? Do you tend to ramble or are you concise to the point of leaving out key information?
Chances are, you’re somewhere on the scale of each option I described. That’s normal. But your communication style is only half of the equation.
Let’s look specifically at how this affects us when communicating through a presentation. It could be during a meeting, as a formal presentation, or giving a keynote address. Regardless of the kind of presentation, we must be aware of our natural approach. It will be in line with our natural communication style. But what about who’s listening?
How can you tell?
If you know the people in the room, this is simple. Communicating with a group of peers, managers, or other people from your organization gives you an advantage. If you stop and think about who the people are, you can usually make pretty good guesses about their communication styles based on what you know about them.
If it’s a room full of complete strangers, this is not so simple. You might go by what you know about them in terms of professions, roles, and why they are in attendance. Most often, there’s a cross-section of communication styles represented. Variety is normal. In that case, using a variety of styles during your presentation might be helpful. Tell some stories, some of which are funny and some of which are serious. Ask a few open-ended questions to draw people out. Balance how much data you give with these other ways of supporting your presentation. Ask for feedback along way.
Knowing your own communication style is important. Giving thought to the style and preferences of whoever is listening is equally important. Find balance, seek engagement, and adjust accordingly.