Plan to Communicate; Communicate, to Plan

Plan to Communicate; Communicate, to Plan
(Effective Communication Skills are a “Must” for Meetings Professionals)
By Sylvia Henderson

What one word ensures your meeting or event is an unqualified success?
What skill enables you to convey information, ideas, and plans?
What is the key to reaching the variety of people with whom you interact?

Communication!

As meetings professionals, communicating effectively is the primary skill you practice to plan, facilitate, and evaluate your programs.

A survey sponsored by the National Speakers Association (NSA) and Meeting Professionals International (MPI) identifies that problems each group faces universally involve mis-communication. J.D. Power and Associates in conjunction with MPI conducted an Event Planner Satisfaction Study™ and over 2600 meeting professionals responded that good communication is one of the key ingredients that makes a successful event.

Computers and the Internet have helped speed communications in recent years but much of what you communicate is still done via the telephone or in person. Let’s look at some of these skills and see how we can enhance the messages we communicate.

See how you do on this short quiz:

  • (1.) The most important aspect of communicating is speaking. (True / False)
  • (2.) The largest part of the message you communicate is conveyed through paralanguage. (True / False)
  • (3.) A visual receiver responds best when you acknowledge that their comments sound good to you. (True / False)
  • (4.) Changes in movement are more important than the movements themselves. (True / False)

And the correct answers are… (1.) False (2.) False (3.) False (4.) True

The most important aspect of communicating is listening. Active listening is the act of showing you are listening, which is important to letting the other person know you care about what they are saying.

  • Nod your head occasionally to indicate you are paying attention.
  • Question the other person at appropriate intervals to clarify points.
  • Rephrase what you heard so that you are both sure you got the points correctly.

When you convey a message in person, a small percentage of the message is conveyed through the words you speak, a larger percentage through the way you use your voice (paralanguage), and the largest percentage through your body language. Choosing the words you say is important but how you say them communicates far more.

  • Be conscious of or learn to control the tone, pitch, and rate of your voice.
  • Emphasize words appropriately and pause for effect.

Our senses play a role in how we receive information. We each have a strong sensory receptor favoring one of our senses over another. Some people are auditory receivers meaning they respond to sound more than they do to sight. Others respond more to touch than to smell or taste.

  • When you communicate with someone who is a strong auditory receptor, use terms that connect with his or her sense of hearing. For example, say, “I hear you.” “That sounds good.” “Listen…”
  • When you communicate with someone with a strong visual receptor, try “I see!” “Look…”

Communicate to your receiver’s sensory receptors.

Books have been written on how to interpret body language. The most important aspect of body language is the change in movement rather than the movements themselves.

  • Leaning forward when someone is speaking typically conveys that you are attentive.
  • Shifting your position to lean backwards communicates a change in your attention or your attitude towards what is being said.
  • Changing from closed gestures to more open gestures communicates a warming-up or opening-up of your defenses and indicates you may be more receptive to ideas.

Communicating your message to the range of individuals upon whom you depend for your event is a delicate and challenging task. Practice the skills that enable you to be an effective communicator and you increase your chances for success.

First published in HSMAI’s Sourcebook for Meeting Planners. Also published in Ann Arbor (MI) Convention and Visitors Bureau’s E-Newsletter.

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