Project managers spend a large part of each day communicating—facilitating meetings, emailing stakeholders, responding to texts, writing reports, and having one-on-one conversations. We are so busy, we rarely take the time to improve the effectiveness of our communication. How can we become a better project communicator?
1. Join Toastmasters
Howard Hendricks said, “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes permanent.” How true. Just because we speak or make presentations a lot does not mean that we are improving. We can actually become worse. Individuals need feedback and coaching to become better.
Consider joining an organization like Toastmasters International. This organization provides education and public speaking resources. More importantly, you’ll have regular opportunities to speak and to obtain feedback in a safe environment. If you like, you can even compete at different levels allowing you to further hone your skills.
2. Use Visuals
You’ve heard the saying—a picture is worth a thousand words. One of the best ways to improve your communication is through the use of visuals. It does not have to be fancy or require much time. Draw a picture on a white marker board. Create a visual in PowerPoint. Build a model.
Want a simple way to engage your project team in the development of a project schedule? Create a Kanban Board. And start with sticky notes if you like.
Imagine a developer who is creating a website. Wireframes are a great way to share the user interface screens and get feedback before writing code.
Imagine a business analyst who is mapping a business process. Why not create a swim lane diagram showing the steps and actors?
3. Study Great Communicators
Another way to improve your communications is by studying individuals who have inspired others to action.
How about Winston Churchill? Take note of his quotes such as, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
And who hasn’t heard Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech? Notice the cadence, pauses, and the repetitions in the speech.
Lastly, YouTube provides a library of great speakers and speeches. Check out Ted Talks.
"Speak clearly, if you speak at all; carve every word before you let it fall." —Oliver Wendell Holmes
4. Read Books on Communication
Want to get inside the head of some of the world’s greatest communication experts? Check out one of these books:
Check out my Bookshelf
Discover other helpful project management books and standards.
5. Ask for Feedback
We all have blind spots, don’t we? So, why not ask someone to observe you when you speak, teach, or facilitate a meeting. Afterward, meet with the individual to hear their observations and suggestions for improving your communication. Yes, this requires humbling ourselves a bit, but it’s one of the fastest ways to enhance your communication skills.
Develop Better Project Charters!
One of the best ways to improve project communication is engaging your stakeholders and developing a project charter together. Clarify your project goals, deliverables, assumptions, constraints, top risks, key stakeholders, and team members.
Project Risk Coach Tips
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"Intelligent leadership, creative communication and depth of technical skill all describe Harry Hall." –John Bartuska, Director of HR–ONUG Communications