Communication is an integral part of running a successful business. It’s important to ensure that your messages are being received as intended so that you can avoid any miscommunication and confusion. Take into account that people learn in different ways. For some, written communication is most effective, while others prefer to have a conversation through oral communication. Master the art of written and oral communication so you can share information effectively throughout your business.
Understand the Value of Effective Oral and Written Communication Skills
Communication in business is so much more than just sending and receiving messages. There are many benefits to effective oral and written communication:
- Clarify misunderstandings
- Avoid miscommunication
- Improve productivity
- Reduce mistakes and errors
- Resolve tension and conflict
- Build relationships and trust
Strong communication throughout an organization can also help to improve employee engagement and increase worker satisfaction. If employees feel that management is honest with them and keeps them in the loop about important company updates, they will feel more invested in their jobs.
From a consumer perspective, effective communication can help to create a sense of transparency, which builds trust. Prospects don’t want to be taken advantage of. They want to purchase products and services from credible businesses who will keep their promises. Effective communication can help establish that relationship.
Establish Clear Goals for Your Communication
One of the attributes of oral and written communication that is effective is that it helps the business to achieve an objective. When planning your communication, be sure to clearly identify what you hope to accomplish. Communication goals may include:
- Informing employees about new company policies
- Persuading prospects to make a purchase
- Educating suppliers about the benefits of working with your company
Having an ideal outcome for your communication helps to ensure that the conversation stays on track. Once the communication is complete, you can look back and see whether it was successful by comparing the outcome to your goal. For example, if you set out to update employees about new payroll policies, you can see whether your communication was successful by asking employees if they fully understand the new policies. If they don’t, then that means your communication was not successful and you need to revisit the topic to ensure the message is properly received.
Always Tailor Your Message to Your Audience
The key to any successful oral or written communication is to understand the needs of your audience. Who are you talking to and what do they need to know? Consider how much knowledge your audience already has about the topic at hand. What information are they missing? What goals are they trying to achieve?
Craft your message based on the answers to those questions. For example, if you’re updating customers on a new product feature that is being released, consider how much they already know about the product. Customers likely have a deeper understanding of your product than prospects do, so you can condense the amount of background information you provide them. When discussing the same information with prospects, you’ll likely need to provide more detailed information about the benefits of your products.
Use the Right Communication Medium
Effective communication requires the sender of the message to select the right method of oral or written communication. What’s the difference between oral and written communication? Simply put, written communication involves sending messages through the written word. Oral communication, on the other hand, involves spoken conversations to send messages.
Examples of written communication include:
- Instant messages and text messages
- Reports, slide decks and summaries
- Meeting agendas and minutes
Examples of oral communication include:
- Phone conversations
- Video conferences
- One-on-one meetings
- Group meetings
Consider what the best mode of communication is for your goal. If you want to introduce a new service to customers, you may not need an in-person meeting. Consider sending them an email or a short video detailing the new service and offer to meet with them to answer any questions. This shows that you value the customers' time.
If you need to update your employees on annual company revenue, an instant message is not the best choice. Your employees may have questions about the future of the company, so holding a group meeting is an effective way to communicate this information.
Pay Attention to Non-Verbal Cues
During the communication, be sure to consider any non-verbal cues, such as facial expressions, tone of voice and body language. These may be more evident during oral communication, rather than written communication. Regardless, it’s critical to pay attention to the sentiment of your audience. Do they appear confused by what you’re telling them? Is something about your conversation making them uncomfortable? Are you going too fast or too slow?
Based on reading the non-verbal cues, you may need to adjust your communication tactic to ensure the message is received correctly. For example, if you’re having a meeting with a department head but he appears fidgety and distracted, you may want to ask what else is on his mind. If you’re having a conversation over instant messaging and the employee seems confused, you may consider telephoning her instead.
Ensure Your Message Has Been Received
After your communication, it’s important to follow up and ensure that the message has been received as you intended it. Offer to answer any questions your communication partner has. Give them time to think over the information you have provided them and don’t expect them to make any instant decisions.
Remove the Barriers to Communication
In the workplace, there can be many barriers to communication. In order to communicate effectively, try to reduce or completely remove these barriers.
Barriers to communication may include:
- Physical barriers: Loud noise, closed doors, faulty equipment and geographical distances can make it difficult to communicate.
- Language barriers: Employees, prospects and customers may not all speak the same language or use regional dialects.
- Psychological barriers: Some people have a fear of speaking in public or speaking to large groups of people.
- Emotional barriers: Anger, frustration and annoyance can affect the way people communicate.
- Cultural barriers: People from different parts of the world communicate differently, so it’s important to understand the norms and expectations in other cultures.
If your business has trouble with effective oral and written communication, it’s prudent to identify what kind of barriers are causing the communication breakdown. For example, if the employees in your office are having loud conversations, you may not be able to properly hear a customer over the phone. A way to remove that barrier is to speak with employees about using a respectful tone of voice at work. You can also use a conference room with a closed door to conduct conversations.
Provide Employees With Communication Skills
Offer your employees the chance to improve their oral and written communication skills in the workplace. You can hold lunch-and-learn workshops where different employees share effective communication tips with their colleagues. You can also hire professional communication coaches to help improve specific areas of communication. For example, if your employees have trouble with customer communication, a coach can teach them conflict resolution, negotiation and problem-solving skills to improve their oral communication.
Be sure to lead by example. Follow best practices when communicating with internal and external stakeholders by always considering the needs of your audience first. Craft your message based on what information they need to know. Use the right communication method so that you respect others’ time. Follow up to ensure that your message was received correctly.
Anam Ahmed is a Toronto-based writer and editor with over a decade of experience helping small businesses and entrepreneurs reach new heights. She has experience ghostwriting and editing business books, especially those in the "For Dummies" series, in addition to writing and editing web content for the brand. Anam works as a marketing strategist and copywriter, collaborating with everyone from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups, lifestyle bloggers to professional athletes. As a small business owner herself, she is well-versed in what it takes to run and market a small business. Anam earned an M.A. from the University of Toronto and a B.A.H. from Queen's University. Learn more at www.anamahmed.ca.