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How to improve your communication skills

Discover why good communication matters and what you can do to be a better communicator.

It’s well known that having good communication skills is important at work – it’s why ‘I’m a great communicator’ is a staple of every CV. 

However, it’s less clear why communication matters. Similarly, we all know what bad communication looks like. 

But what does it mean to be a good communicator? And how can you improve your communication skills?

Luckily for you, FutureLearn offers a diverse selection of courses designed to hone your communication abilities, whether by learning how to create killer presentations or improving your spoken English.

But before you get stuck into a course, we’ve put together a handy rundown of quick tips for turning yourself into a top talker.


Know your audience

Understanding exactly who you’re talking to is vital.

You might be a whizz with facts and figures, but if you’re addressing a room full of creatives you might want to use less jargon, and more visual aids.

Being stiff and serious might be appropriate when dealing with senior executives, but with junior staff a more relaxed approach could be better.

It all comes down to being flexible. Try to read the room – and prepare in advance.

Before you go into a meeting or a presentation think carefully about who’ll be there, and the best way to adjust your words and body language to appeal to them.

Good communication isn’t about imposing yourself on others but adapting your tone of voice to make sure you get your message across.


Be concise

There’s nothing worse than a meeting being dominated by someone waffling on about a topic, when just a few words would have sufficed. 

People sacrifice productive time to attend a meeting or a presentation, so think about how to communicate what you want to say in a simple and straightforward way.

It’s also worth considering the backgrounds of those in the room when you talk. Remember that the clearer you are, the more likely it is that your ideas will land.

It’s also important to bear in mind that English might not be everyone’s first language. If you work with an international team, the University of Sussex has a course designed to help you better communicate with diverse audiences.

Equally, if English is your second language, and you’re worried about being clear in your communication, you might want to consider taking a course to improve your confidence in using English for the workplace.


Be clear

Clarity is the cousin of conciseness. Just as it’s vital to not use ten words when one would work, good communication also rests on using the right words.

What is it exactly you want to communicate, and what are the points you want to make?

You might want to think about this in advance, preparing and structuring your ideas to keep on point. Make a plan of what you want to talk about, and the key issues you want to address. 

You could even share your objectives with people in advance, so participants know precisely what you want to discuss – and how to stay on topic.

For more information, explore Coventry University’s course on how to give an effective presentation


The medium is the message

Face-to-face communication is vital for building trust and responsibility in an organisation – it’s never good to hide behind emails or Slack (as tempting as it can be).

However, it’s just as important to know whether what you want to communicate is really worthy of a meeting, or could just be discussed in an email or a group chat.

Increasingly, the future of business communication is moving online, so familiarising yourself with how to write emails is key for success. Fortunately, the British Council have a course for that!


Listen

Good communication is a two-way street – great communicators are also great listeners. 

After all, communication is all about being able to facilitate those around you to do their jobs better. That means taking people’s opinions into account.

Make sure you listen to feedback and really hear what your colleagues are saying to you.

If you’re giving a presentation, leave time for questions and discussion. If you’re in a meeting, don’t hog the floor and let others talk – especially if you’re a man and no women have spoken yet. And if you’re in the office, take the time to ask people how they are, and remember what they say so you can follow up later.

It never hurts to ask too many questions – it shows you’re interested and attentive. 


If you’d like to learn more about how to improve your communication skills, discover the Open University’s Effective Communication course, or explore FutureLearn’s wide selection of business and management courses.

Category Learning, Business, General