99 ways to improve your business communication

Communication and self-confidence are the cornerstones of success. How do you rate on this list of 99 communication tips?

Strong and effective communication skills are critical to your business success.

Here are 99 nuggets on business communication, networking, interviews, and social media that you can use to supercharge your department and career.

Off we go!

1. Believe body language. It doesn’t lie.

2. Remember that every statement or comment doesn’t require a response.

3. Choose your words carefully.

4. Speak and write with clarity.

5. Read whenever possible; it expands your vocabulary.

6. Be aware of your speech patterns and habits, including inflection, pacing, and tone of voice.

7. Avoid interrupting people. We’re adults. One voice at a time.

8. Keep slang at home.

9. Stay away from “empty” words such as “Frankly,” “Really,” and “Actually.”

10. Prepare an outline when speaking at meetings and presentations.

11. Focus conversations on other people, not yourself.

12. Weave names into conversations. Everyone’s favorite word is their own name.

13. Use dark backgrounds and light colored fonts for PowerPoint slides.

14. Insert silence and pauses into your speeches and conversations. They are more powerful than words.

15. Diffuse conflicts without technology. Plan a face-to-face meeting or a phone call to resolve issues amicably and quickly.

16. Develop the fine art of charisma. Don’t be a “crap magnet.”

17. Write to express, not to impress.

18. Engage your listener, reader, and audience with material that is clear, concise, and compelling.

19. Ask good questions and you’ll get good information.

20. Listen with your mouth closed.

21. Use the “P-R-R” method when answering questions: Pause, Reflect, Respond.

22. Greet the janitor and the CEO of the company in the exact same way.

23. Smile and use eye contact. It’s the universal language.

24. Know when to speak up and know when to shut up.

25. Follow the 5 Ps: Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance (public speaking).

26. Respond to controversial or off-color comments with this phrase: “Isn’t that interesting?” Then smile. It’s a neutral statement and dead-ends virtually all conversations. In a pleasant way, of course.

27. Improve your communication skills by observing positive role models you admire and respect.

28. Show value when reciting your “elevator speech.” Focus on the results you get for others, not your job title.

29. Speak from the heart.

30. Follow a written agenda in meetings to save time and stay on task.

31. Make all important phone calls before noon.

32. Ask the question. Then be quiet.

33. Walk the walk and talk the talk. Be congruent.

34. Stay away from industry jargon and rhetoric that can confuse people.

35. Identify where your target audience hangs out and go there (this is true for bricks-and-mortar as well as social media)

36. Avoid writing emails and making phone calls when you’re angry or frustrated.

37. Write your blogs consistently so people can gain insight into your expertise, experiences, and personality.

38. Learn Emotional Intelligence (empathy, self-awareness, and teamwork) to improve your communication skills.

39. Understand the importance of self-promotion and personal branding.

40. Walk into a room tall, strong, and proud.

41. Look for similarities, not differences. This bridges communication gaps.

42. Listen to what is not being said.

43. Avoid criticizing, complaining, and judging.

44. Record yourself on audio or video to hear and see how you move and behave.

45. Answer the phone standing up and smiling.

46. Look in the mirror before you go into a meeting.

47. Give all of your attention to the person who is speaking. Avoid distractions and “darting eyes.”

48. Turn off your technology at professional business meetings and events.

49. Avoid excessive and distracting clothing patterns, jewelry, make-up, and accessories —especially when you are the speaker, TV guest, or recording a video for your intranet.

50. Be relevant and memorable.

51. Use gestures to empasize your spoken words.

52. Follow the leader. If he speaks fast, you speak fast. If he is slow, you should be slow.

53. Connect with people by being authentic and genuine.

54. Stay on message.

55. Dress like the person you aspire to be.

56. Build rapport with people.

57. Keep your jacket open. A closed jacket sends a nonverbal sign that you may be hiding something.

58. Have a good handshake. Practice with someone you trust and get their feedback.

59. Thank someone when they offer a compliment (don’t argue!)

60. Save political, religious, sex, and other controversial jokes or stories for outside of your professional circles.

61. Respect the personal space of others.

62. Avoid planning your answer in your head when someone is speaking. Pay close attention to what they are saying and then respond.

63. Write with bullet points and white space so your information is “reader-friendly.”

64. Have a powerful opening and closing in your presentations, speeches, articles, and blog posts.

65. Highlight benefits, not features, when building consensus for new projects and ideas.

66. Create punchy, engaging, and helpful videos that are 1-3 minutes in length.

67. Write tweets of less than 125 characters; leaving space for people to retweet and spread your message.

68. Connect with human emotions by using real-life examples and sharing stories.

69. Avoid keeping your reading glasses on and “looking down your nose” when speaking to others.

70. Emphasize important words or phrases by lowering or raising your voice, or slowing down.

71. Exude positive energy in both your written and spoken words.

72. Understand the importance of making small talk.

73. Avoid biting your lip and inside cheek when speaking to someone. These signal anxiety or nervousness.

74. Project your voice with authority.

75. Use smiles as positive reinforcements.

76. Express gratitude.

77. Re-read, and if necessary, rewrite everything before you send it, speak it, or share it.

78. Maintain eye contact, but not at a level that can make someone feel uncomfortable.

79. Keep your palms open when asking questions. This indicates you are open-minded and welcoming.

80. Recognize when it’s appropriate to use a “social hug” to greet someone.

81. Avoid the word “stuff.” It’s vague and unprofessional. Be specific.

82. Write an article for your ezine or newsletter that includes interesting quotes and statistics.

83. Drink alcohol on your personal time.

84. Steer conversations to positive topics.

85. Dress appropriately for videos and TV interviews by asking about background colors, lighting, and set design.

86. Have a mission or value statement that has repeatability so others can communicate it for you.

87. Use your body language to your advantage when delivering a speech. Don’t hide behind the podium.

88. Watch for cultural differences in communication styles.

89. Remember that enthusiasm is contagious.

90. Point your feet away from someone if you want to leave the conversation.

91. Respond to comments on your blog or website so it’s interactive and engaging.

92. Leave your personal life outside of business conversations.

93. Show respect and spare people’s feelings. Don’t blame or insult anyone.

94. Delete the word “just” from your vocabulary. It’s belittling. You’re not “just an accountant” or “just a recruiter.” You are an accountant. You are a recruiter. Be proud.

95. Stop over-apologizing. You’re not responsible for the poor service, rain, or world peace.

96. Resist the temptation to finish other people’s sentences.

97. Open your eyes, ears, and heart to new messages and people.

98. Be the fountain, not the drain.

99. Stand up if everyone around is standing and sit down if everyone is seated. Be on a level playing field.

Which of these pointers have you mastered and which ones need improvement?

Care to add to the list? Comments welcome.

Susan Young is managing editor of Ragan’s HR Communication, where this story first appeared.

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