Effective Verbal Communication Skills for Professionals (with Workbook): Rise Up! | Alex Lyon | Skillshare

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Effective Verbal Communication Skills for Professionals (with Workbook): Rise Up!

teacher avatar Alex Lyon, Communication Professor

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      Welcome and Overview


    • 2.

      How to Get the Most Out of This Class


    • 3.

      Concise Communication: "What's Your Question?"


    • 4.

      Take Short Talking Turns: Make it a Dialogue, Not a Monologue


    • 5.

      Using Clear Main Points is the Key


    • 6.

      Use Plain Language as Often as Possible


    • 7.

      Clean Up Bad & Distracting Verbal Habits


    • 8.

      Putting into Practice


    • 9.

      Working with Your Team (Bonus)


    • 10.

      Wrap Up and Next Steps


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About This Class

In this class, you'll learn the fundamentals of Effective Verbal Communication Skills for Professionals

Effective Verbal Communication is consistently ranked as a Top 10 Communication Skill that employers and hiring managers want their people to have. It's the foundation of many other skills.

There's also a 30-page downloadable workbook to help you stay on track! 

In the class, you'll learn the following: 

  • How to communicate concisely so you sound more credible
  • How to make your communication an engaging dialogue rather than a boring monologue
  • How to use clear main points to make sure listeners follow your message easily
  • How to translate needlessly complex language into words that are easily understandable
  • How to clean up common distracting verbal habits: "Powerful" vs. "Powerless" language.

The class is designed for employee-level professionals (team members, individual contributors, etc.).  

The lessons take a hands-on, practical approach, and provide lots of examples and illustrations. Each lesson wraps up with a practical application step.

The class is also designed so that you can go through it as an individual or with a group or team. 

The instructor, Alex Lyon, is a full-time Professor in Communication. He has numerous classes on Skillshare, a successful Youtube channel (i.e., Communication Coach Alex Lyon), and has been consulting and speaking to organizations for almost 20 years.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Alex Lyon

Communication Professor


I make courses to help emerging leaders build their communication skills. I believe that good leadership and communication change lives. I formed this belief when I was young. My first few bosses made a big impact on me. Some of my supervisors were excellent but others had weak leadership skills that made everything worse. Now that I am a leader and supervisor myself, I want to help as many new leaders as possible increase their impact so they can lead their teams with excellence.

I've been a full-time college Professor, consultant, and speaker for almost 20 years. I published my first book in 2016. 

Feel free to connect with me on Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexlyoncommunicationcoach.

See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Welcome and Overview: Hello and welcome. I'm Alex Lyon and this class is going to teach you the fundamentals of effective verbal communication. This class is part of my rise-up series that teaches you the top ten communication skills that supervisors and hiring managers say they are consistently looking for. In this class, you'll learn how to be more clear, concise, and how to remove verbal clutter so that you have that nice professional sound. Each lesson teaches clear tips, gives concrete examples, and finishes with hands-on application. The class was designed for employee-level professionals who are individual contributors. If this is you, you likely have established a solid area of expertise, but you want to develop your communication skills to that same level, so this class will help you get there. This class may not be a good fit. However, if you're already in some official leadership position with numerous employees that you currently supervise, I have designed the class so that you can go through it either on your own or you can go through it with your entire team. Toward the end of the class, there are additional instructions for either situation, and be sure to download the workbook and follow along with each lesson. In terms of my background, I am a full-time professor, I've published peer-reviewed journal articles and a book that all focus on workplace communication. I've been doing professional workshops for years. I have a successful YouTube channel and numerous online classes. Everything I say is backed up by research, but I approach it in a very hands-on and step-by-step way that's been tested in numerous companies over the years. The class zeros right in on the tips that will help you the most. I hope you'll join me in the next lesson about how to get the most out of the class. 2. How to Get the Most Out of This Class: Let's talk about how you can get the most out of this class. First, I recommend that you treat all of these lessons like a self-assessment. When it comes to verbal communication skills, what do you specifically need to work on? Given the focus of this class, what improvements would you like to make? What kind of feedback have you received in the past about your communication? If you can focus on building just two or three skills in this class, you will notice an instant improvement. Second, at the end of this class there's a project and when we get there, I'll ask you to fill out a three-part template in the workbook that you'll use to craft, practice, and deliver a message. You don't have to figure all that out now, but here's a forecast of what's coming. I will be asking you to select an issue that you care about, some Some in your community, for example, and then you'll develop a concise three-part plan to solve that problem. The individual lessons will help you get ready for that. Third, if you're going through this class on your own, you may want to think of somebody, a real person who can help you practice, so that this is all realistic for you. They don't have to do anything but sit there, listen, and be supportive. Think about someone who can help you like that. If you're going through this class as part of a team, the best way to get the most out of this is to set aside some time, so you can practice together, and encourage each other, and give feedback. The last two lessons of the class will give you instructions for how to practice as an individual or as a group. The key is to take what you're learning from the class and then put it into practice in one way or another. Let's jump into the next lesson. 3. Concise Communication: "What's Your Question?": I was watching the show Shark Tank the other day and this hopeful entrepreneur could not get to the point, he was long-winded and scattered and the sharks immediately had a bad impression of him. Sometimes the sharks will even tell these entrepreneurs get to the point, so I'm curious, have you ever seen a long winded and disorganized speaker like this? You don't want to be this person, when it comes to poor verbal communication, being long winded is usually the number one offender and just like on Shark Tank, when we don't communicate concisely, people will draw conclusions about our competence. In contrast, concise communication makes you sound both confident and like you know what you're talking about, so clear and concise communication doesn't come naturally for everybody. But the people who do it well work at it a lot more than you may realize, it's a skill that anybody can get better at. Let me explain an exercise that will help you to be more concise, we're going to do an application that I call what's your question? This is especially helpful for times when you have a minute or so to prepare ahead of time. What's your question? Was inspired by some good friends, a married couple who were both junior attorneys, their boss was a very sharp and intimidating district attorney, a prosecutor. These two junior lawyers would often individually asked to speak to their boss and his office and I had the same experience. They would go into their boss's office, sit down and essentially think out loud about some legal problem they were facing in a case and he would let them talk for a minute, but eventually interrupt them politely and ask, what's your question? He would tell them to pause, think about what their bottom line concern was, he tell them then to ask their question directly. What specifically did they need from him as a supervisor in that moment? Once they asked their concise question, they would have a very helpful conversation about it moving forward. As you might imagine, both of my friends were very intimidated at first by this experience, but they also agreed that in the long run it was an incredibly valuable mentoring process on effective communication and even effective thinking. They both developed the habit of thinking clearly about what they wanted to say and boiling all the way down to one or two sentences before they walked in there. Here's the secret to their experience and concise communication generally. Virtually everybody in professional settings will at some point ask that question in their head, when they are listening to us talk. Whether it's my friends supervisor, the investors on Shark Tank, or your boss. When you start talking in a professional setting like that, virtually everybody is implicitly asking themselves some version of what's your question or what's the point? People want you to be concise. Let's get even more hands on. I would like you to think of some type of concern or issue that you would like to talk to your supervisor about and for this activity, I recommend that you avoid really serious issues because we're just going to practice. Pick a topic or concern that's relatively easy to deal with that you could talk about openly if you wanted to. Let's pretend you are talking to your direct supervisor and we're going to do this with two key bullet points. First, I want you to practice boiling down your concern into one concise sentence and second, asked them specifically what you would like from them. You may have to think about this for a moment to select an issue that fits this activity, so let me give you some lead in phrases and a mini template to help you structure this message and get right to the point. This is very close to the talking points that my two lawyer friends developed. Number 1, is a leading phrase, my concern is a variation of that might be I have a concern that. Number 2, the second bullet point is a leading phrase and my question is, and makes sure the rest of what you fill in is just one sentence. One sentence for each of these points is your goal, if you find yourself adding detail or continuing past one sentence for each of these bullet points, then stop, go back and start each sentence again with those lead and phrases and compress your message until you can say it more concisely. This takes some discipline and you may need a few repetitions to get the hang of it. Here's my example, I pretend that I'm walking into my supervisor's office at the college where I teach. I'll pretend I've already walked in, we have greeted each other, I asked him if he had a moment to talk and he has just said to me, sure, Alex, what is it? Here's what I would say using this two point template. Well, my concern is that we do not have the space we need in our building to open our new communication skills lab. My question is, would you be able to make some calls and help us locate some suitable space in another building? You can see I use those lead in phrases I mentioned. I stayed at my concern and I asked my question in one sentence each. To be transparent with you, those sentences were not my first draft, I revised that to make it sound crisp, this is a skill and you may need to do the same. Here's another example, I have a concern that our department will not have enough money in the budget to pay the four guest speakers that we have invited to campus. My question is, do you know of any additional sources of funding that might be available to help pay for our guest speakers? Short and sweet, that's the goal and now it's your turn. Again this is just a practice role play, now think of some problem or concern that you could likely bring to your supervisor and using the mini template and lead and phrases as prompts. First explain your concern in one sentence, and the next sentence, ask your question. Just like I did, pretend you're talking to your supervisor and you've already greet each other and your supervisor has just asked you what's up? That's your cue to explain your concern and ask your question. This is really just Step 1, a taste of what concise communication can sound like. The long term goal of this lesson is to conquer any long winded anise that you might have and develop a habit of concise communication and virtually all of your professional conversations, meetings, and even presentations. Anytime you have even a minute to pause, boiled down your message to it's essence. In other words, as a habit, pretend as if whoever you are talking to, is going to look at you when you walk in the room and politely ask, what's your question? 4. Take Short Talking Turns: Make it a Dialogue, Not a Monologue: I recently watched a client finish a fantastic presentation, she was prepared and polished. But when the question and answer time started, something changed. Somebody ask a fairly clear question, she could have answered it in about two or three sentences. My client, however, gave a four or five-minute answer. Instead of Q&A, it turned into an overly detailed monologue. People started looking at each other as if to say, "What is going on?" When she finally finished, everybody was just happy it was over. For a lot of reasons, some of us tend to ramble. There's a common misconception among ramblers that they're good communicators because they find it easy to talk a lot, but other people do not see it that way. The bottom line is that nobody wants to hear a monologue when the interaction is supposed to be a back-and-forth exchange, a dialogue like a friendly game of tennis. In this lesson, I'm going to encourage you to take short talking turns in any type of question-and-answer session, group discussion, or one-on-one conversation. Short talking turns accomplish two key things. They ensure that you remain concise in your daily interactions. Secondly, short talking turns turn any interaction into an adaptive dialogue instead of a one-way monologue. Here's an example of a very typical question and a rambling answer, and we're going to fix this in a moment. The question is, can you contact Gary and ask him about it? A rambling answer might sound a little bit like this, "Well, let me think about that. I think I have his email address. Maybe he's in my phone contacts. I don't know what Gary is up to, I'll find a way to contact him. He might be available. It's just that I haven't talked to him in about three months. Is it three months? It might even be six months. I saw him in April. No, wait. So, yeah, three months." It's actually hard for me to even listen to myself ramble like that. Let's look at that text again, and you'll notice that most of the words really have no purpose. There's no additional information that's helpful in there. How can we compress this and turn this answer into a short talking turn? Let's have a redo, in other words. If they ask you, can you contact Gary and ask him about it, how would you answer them in a short talking turn? The question at its core is looking for a yes or no answer. Sometimes a simple yes or no can sound a little blunt or incomplete, and I think it's a good idea to give a little bit of detail to confirm what's happening with one sentence. I might answer this, "Yes, I'll send him an email and ask." That's a nice, concise talking turn. That could be the end of the discussion right there or you could continue the discussion, if there's more to say. Here's another example. Let's say somebody asks you how it's going in your department. Now some people hear that question and they explain every problem, every conspiracy theory, and they take you on some extended journey like The Lord of the Rings movie. But here is what a short talking turn would sound like. They ask you, how's it going in your department? You might say, "It's going well. We have a few openings we're trying to fill, but we'll get there. How are things going for your team?" People love that answer. When a conversation starts like that with a short talking turn just two or three sentences is very likely to continue in this pattern and become a helpful conversation for both sides. You'll notice that once I answered, I asked them how they were doing with their team. Short talking turns allow each person multiple opportunities to ask, answer, and adapt to the needs of the discussion. We've already been practicing a bit, but let's turn to more application. First, let's do a quick self-assessment for you. On a scale of 1-10, do you lean toward short talking turns or monologues? Be honest about this. Give yourself a one, if you are a wicked monologuer, and a 10, if you're already great at taking short talking turns or a score somewhere in the middle. If you tend to monologue, begin to strive to create a dialogue with short talking turns. Second, I would like you to think about a presentation or a meeting update that you've done recently or maybe that's coming up soon. I want you to jot down three questions that people might ask you afterward based upon what you share. This is hypothetical, but take a moment after the lesson and write out three likely questions you could hear. Then to practice role-playing. Simply pretend that somebody is asking you those questions one at a time and practice answering them concisely. Aim for just two or three sentences for each answer as a rule of thumb, a guideline. Because I have noticed that short talking turns like this lead to a helpful and satisfying back-and-forth exchange. If you go beyond three sentences in any given talking turn, during especially a question-and-answer session or a back-and-forth conversation, you're in danger of spinning out and turning it into a monologue like the client I told you about at the beginning, who took four or five minutes to answer a simple question. If you find yourself rambling when you practice, just read the question again and answer it until you can compress it down to two or three sentences. 5. Using Clear Main Points is the Key: In this lesson, we will practice clarity by communicating in clear main points. In most presentations and basic college essays our teachers usually encouraged us to have an introduction, body with about three main points, and a conclusion. Does this sound familiar? If it does, that's because the number one benefit of this classic structure is that it provides clarity to your listener or perhaps your reader. The key takeaway out of this lesson that I want you to have is that listeners want you to speak clearly with main points that are easy to follow. That's what we're going to give them. The good news is, you can boil down almost any amount of information into about three points. You might end up with two points or four points in some cases, but always aim for three points as a habit. Over the years many people have said, well, what do I actually have 10 items? That might happen once in a great while. It's possible that you could be stuck with 10 or more items and there's just no way around it. But creating long lists like this as a habit is not a good direction. Long lists will make all of your points blur together and it's very difficult for anybody to remember what you were talking about. But thankfully, you can usually make immediate improvements with just a little bit of effort. If you have too many items, the first thing that you should do is look for a way to group a long list like this into three or so separate buckets or general points, a little more general than that list of 10. You can take almost any long list and do this. Let's practice that right now. Here's a list of what might seem like at a glance, nine separate items. I want you to find a way to group these into three different buckets. Here's the list; ocean, dirt, nitrogen, river, carbon dioxide, lake, gravel, stone, oxygen. There is a pattern in here that will become obvious in a moment. You can pause the video and take a minute to look for it. But here's how I would group these nine items. Ocean, river, and lake go together under a bucket that you could label water. That's a more general category that includes all three. Dirt, gravel, and stone all go in the same bucket that you could label earth. Nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and oxygen all go in a bucket that you could label air or maybe gas. As a result, our three points would now be water, earth, and air. Now if you just give listeners a list of nine or 10 items, it's going to be very difficult for them to remember anything from that list. People are much more likely to remember if you provide clear logical buckets. Some people call them buckets, other people call them main points, talking points, it's all the same. Essentially you're providing a schema for your listeners. In fact, I will go on the record and predict that you will very likely to remember that I talked about water, earth, and air afterward. That'll be a little bit of proof that this works and hopefully convince you to aim for three points. Once you know about structuring a message like this, you'll start to see it almost everywhere. Few weeks ago, I went to a place to do some ax throwing with my wife and my son. The coach gave us a talk before we started, and he had three points, safety, how we should take turns, and ax throwing technique. Within each of those buckets he gave the relevant details. When he was done, we all put it into practice and started throwing axis at the targets. I only heard him give that talk once to us, and I remember it weeks later all three points and even some of the details in each of those points. There's no way I would have remembered any of it if he had put everything in a long list of 9, 10 or more items. He found a way to group all the details into three clear talking points. Now let's turn to application. We're going to practice speaking in main points like this. I want you to think about some of your current projects, and I want you to create a draft status update on your projects that you could hypothetically share with your team or supervisor. We'll put this in a very simple template. Your headline for this template will be one sentence where you state how things are going, and then structure the rest of your update into three main points. I'll be using my YouTube and video business as an example. My headline would be that things are going really well lately. Headline is just one simple sentence that communicates the overall picture to listeners. Bucket 1 would be that my YouTube channel is growing in both subscribers and views, bucket 2 would be that I'm working on creating more online classes, and bucket 3 would be that I'm making progress on getting a book deal. Those buckets may sound obvious once I say them out loud, but it actually took me a minute before I made this video to think about what those main points would be. Be patient with yourself as you create your draft. This is a skill and it takes a little effort and a little practice. If I were going to deliver this update to a group or maybe my supervisor, I would give some details under each of those buckets in the same way there my ax throwing coach gave us some details for each of his three points. Your application step is then to draft a status update like this using the template. Your headline should be the overall message about how things are going. My example for my YouTube channel and video business was that things are going well, but your headline will be customized to whatever bottom line statement accurately captures the overall picture for you. Then find three main points that you can use to organize your ongoing projects in some logical fashion to give that status update. I recommend that you practice this a couple of times out loud. Practicing is really important. I'm a big advocate of that because sometimes things look good on paper, but then when you try to talk it through out loud you realize it's still needs some work. Make it your goal to give this entire message and no longer than two or three minutes total when you include all of the relevant details inside of each point. When you're ready I also recommend that you practice this in front of a real person, somebody you trust. Ultimately, I encourage you to use this template and a real upcoming meeting in a group or with your supervisor. In time, this three-part framework should become your go-to tool that you can use again and again. 6. Use Plain Language as Often as Possible: A few years ago I was reading a student's paper and they used an overly complicated word in their introduction. The problem is, the word made no sense for the rest of the paper was pretty good. When I handed back to paper to the student I pointed out the word and I asked, what did you mean by this here? The student answered honestly, I don't know what that word mean, I just put it there because it sounded good. It probably wants surprise you to hear that many students do this, but I'm also here to tell you that I know many people in professional settings who take a similar approach. They may actually know what words mean, but they still take whatever message they are preparing to share in a meeting or presentation, and they literally use a thesaurus to try to come up with fancier words to make it sound more impressive. If they're not actually using a thesaurus, they are using the one in their head where they're looking for words that'll make them sound smart. But this is the exact opposite of what we should do if we want to be effective communicators because even if you, as a communicator understand this quote fancy word that you're using there's a good chance that some of your listeners will not be following you. I recently read about the famous physicist Richard Feynman, he was once asked to prepare a lecture for his other colleagues about a very difficult subject and when he returned, he said that he tried but he could not reduce the subject to a freshmen level lecture. Now he's speaking to geniuses, but to him that meant he didn't fully understand it yet for himself. Feynman was also a genius, but he knew that effective communication was clear communication. This lesson is meant to encourage you then to use plain language every chance you get so that you can express yourself in a way that everybody will be able to follow you easily. By plain language, I mean to speak with words that everybody will understand. Listening to needlessly complex languages like looking through muddy water. If you want to communicate clearly, avoid using technical terms when they're not necessarily, avoid using acronyms, buzzwords, or any other jargon that's not needed. I considered a titling this lesson, talk like a normal person because I wanted to make the point that we should not be trying to impress other people with how smart we are or specialized vocabulary is. That puts the mental attention that we're using on ourselves as the communicator. Effective communicators always put their attention on their listeners, they keep their listeners in mind. If you don't keep your listeners in mind, our message will not land the way we want it to. Consider how difficult it is to follow along with this quote, refrain from requesting what the government can provide for its citizens. Comparatively, requests what the populists can offer the nation state. That statement is unnecessarily fancy, but the ideas may sound familiar to you. That's because it's a wordy imitation of a famous quote by John F Kennedy ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. Compare these side by side. Like Feynman, the scientist I mentioned earlier, they say that Kennedy had a genius level IQ and the legend say that he could read over 2,000 words a minute, which is over ten times the average. He was very intelligent in other words and certainly had many big words in his vocabulary, but when he was communicating to groups, he used extremely plain language. You'll notice that every word in his quotation has just one or two syllables, he wanted all of his listeners to understand him. Had he use the fancy sounding words in my paraphrase, nobody would have remembered that quotation. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Steve Jobs, and almost all professional speakers that I know of, figure out what they want to say and then they go through their message, sometimes word for word, and they simplify the language. You could say that they use a reverse thesaurus, instead of making plain language more complicated, they translate their ideas into everyday words. The higher up you go into leadership, the more important this practice becomes because you're trying to reach a broader and broader audience of listeners, and the same goes for abbreviations, acronyms, and buzzwords. Many people use these too much, they will say things like just FYI, we need to respond ASAP, So please RSVP. Some online magazines published lists of the most annoying buzzwords, acronyms, and jargons to discourage talking like this at work, listeners don't like it. Think about it like this, Every time you use an unnecessarily complicated word, acronym or some jargon, you're going to lose a percentage of your audience. I went to an offsite event with a client and one of the presenters was using such specific vocabulary, such specialized terms that nobody in the room understood him after the first few minutes. It's important to keep in mind that he was speaking to 40 or 50 of his closest peers, and these are the people who had the very best chance of understanding him. But it was obvious after the first few minutes that nobody was able to follow what he was saying. Each time he used jargon or a technical term, he lost at least one or more listeners until nobody was following his message. I understand that there are lots of reasons and temptations to sound smart or explain things precisely, but many of us overestimate how well other people are understanding us. But it's not because anybody lacks overall intelligence, somebody who is incredibly intelligent in one area, for example, may have almost nothing in common with another incredibly smart person from a different area. Our work and the vocabulary we use has become more and more specialized over time, like a code. Another reason people might use jargon or acronyms is to be efficient or maybe to fit the culture of the organization you're in. Whatever our intentions may be no matter how positive, one key result. Instead, it becomes harder and harder for anybody to understand us when we talk like that, the best way to overcome this is to speak in plain everyday language. That's what almost all the great communicators do. Let's do a brief exercise, I don't know anything about your specific job. We're going to handle it this way. In this lesson, I'm going to give you some fancy sounding words and I want you to translate those into plain language, so here we go. Contemplate, how would you translate contemplate into an ordinary word? Next, problematical. Yes, I have actually heard professionals use the word problematical. I thought there were joking, but they weren't. How could you say problematical in a plain English word, one word. Next phrase is particular male individual, that's how they sometimes talk in law enforcement, at least how they do it on TV. How could you translate the phrase particular male individual into one word? Here are my answers, I would translate contemplate to think problematical, to problem and particular male individual into man or person. It's important to notice that the fancy words as I call them, don't communicate any more information or data than the plain English translation and just like my awful JFK paraphrase, if you have even just a few fancy words like this in a sentence, you're going to lose your listeners very quickly. Let's try three more words. Utilize, what's a simpler word to say utilize in just one word. What's a plain word for perspective, and here's a common phrase I would like you to reduce to just one word. How could you reduce at the present time to one plane word? Here are some ways to translate these, I would translate utilized or utilization to use and we're going to come back to that one in a moment. I would change perspective to view and I would shorten the phrase at the present time to now, currently is also not that bad. Now you might say to me, but these don't mean the same thing. Why have had a lot of people fight me on this word utilize for example, some people believe that it has some special meeting that the word use does not have. Well, first we're just practicing and I can't force you to say the word use. But second, I've been through this dozens and dozens of times and I know how this works. The plain English version of these words will be a solid substitute 90 percent of the time. It's also very unlikely that a word like utilize is an irreplaceable word at the heart of your message. It's also important to mention that none of these fancy words are wrong, that's not what I'm saying. We're trying to build a habit of using plain language because in general it's clear and less confusing to listeners. There may be times in places where you want to or have to use a bigger word, some words can't be replaced because it would change the fundamental meaning of what you're saying and I understand that. But when you simplify the rest of the sentence, you leave the proper amount of room for those must use technical terms, the words that can't be simplified to stand out. That's a great way to make the keywords have more emphasis. You simplify all the other words as many as you can and then the keywords will stand out even more. The application for this lesson is really just a challenge to you, examine your own communication, look for any buzzwords, jargon, technical terms, or any other fancy sounding language you tend to use. Begin practicing this reverse thesaurus exercise, make every attempt you can to simplify your language into plain English. I admit that you will not be able to get rid of every complicated word and that's expected and totally fine, but where you can use plain language every chance you get so that you're clear and easy to follow for everybody in the room. 7. Clean Up Bad & Distracting Verbal Habits: One key way to almost instantly boost your verbal communication skills is to clean up your bad verbal habits. When we remove just a few of our distracting communication habits, everything else we say will come into better focus. Years ago, Bradac and Mulac published an important study in the journal, Communication Monographs, about what I will refer to as powerless talk versus powerful talk. Powerless talk is full of distractions, fillers, and other bad habits that don't need to be there. Powerless talk lowers our perceived credibility, trustworthiness, attractiveness, confidence, and persuasiveness. The good news is that when we get rid of these distractions, our credibility, trustworthiness, attractiveness, and so on, all get measurably better instantly. We call this cleaned up communication powerful talk. Here are the most common powerless communication habits. As we go through these, do a self assessment to see what you want to get rid of. Here are the top 5. First, hesitations. Um, ah, well, you know, and, so. These are the classic fillers that we hear about in public speaking. Second, hedges; kind of, sort of, I guess, I think, something like that. These hedges weaken everything we say. Third tag questions; right? Isn't it? Wouldn't it? Okay? Here's how it sounds in a sentence. It would be great to hire Candidate A, wouldn't it? When we add these tag questions to something we've said, it takes most of the perceived confidence out of our message. Forth, disclaimers. Sometimes people start talking turn by saying things like, I know this might sound crazy but, or you might think this is weird, or this probably isn't a great idea but. Granted, it's true that there is a time and a place for humility, but if you use disclaimers as a regular habit, then we're consistently undermining our own credibility. Five, side particles. Some people have a habit of saying their own unique words or phrases repetitively. Words like basically, actually, essentially, technically, quite frankly. It's fine to use words like this once in awhile. But I know a lot of people who have go-to side particles and they use them in almost every statement. A friend of mine I used to work with started almost every single answer to questions with the word technically, even when it didn't need to be there. He said it so much that it became an inside joke and other people around the workplace started answering questions the same way. That was our version of having fun. We'd say technically, the bathroom is the first door on the right. Technically, tomorrow is Wednesday. [LAUGHTER] That was our version of having fun. A habit of using side particles and any other type that we've mentioned here can become a real distraction and lower our perceived effectiveness. Let's practice now by cleaning up our bad verbal habits with these back-to-back samples to see how they sound. The first example we'll have various powerless talk habits woven in. I think we should uh hire another uh salesperson and uh like a marketing intern, or something like that. Don't you think? That sounds pretty powerless to me. I don't think anybody would want to listen to that. Let's take those powerless phrases out to see how powerful talk should sound. We should hire another salesperson and marketing intern. That sounds much more confident and powerful to me. You might be saying, well, that sounds too direct. Well, first of all, we're just practicing removing bad habits, but second, if it's important to you, for example, to soften up a statement by adding a little phrase like, I think, that's probably okay once in awhile, just don't make it a bad habit. Let's do another one. Here's the powerless version. This probably isn't a great idea, but uh I think we could invite an outside speaker uh, you know, somebody employees might know. Don't you think? That doesn't sound too effective to me. Here's how powerful talk with sound after it's cleaned up and we've removed those powerless habits. We could invite an outside speaker, someone employees might know. That sounds much more confident, much more credible. Let's turn to application. First, I'd like you to identify any of these habits that you may have. What are your powerless talk habits in other word? Don't be too concerned about the exact terms or labels that we've been using. Just figure out what your tendencies and habits are to put extra words and phrases in that don't need to be there. Then second, the secret as the example showed, is to simply take them out. You have to listen to the way you talk, identify your powerless talk, and then simply remove those extra words. This will make you sound more effective, almost as quick as a magic trick, and boosts your perceived credibility, trustworthiness, attractiveness, confidence, and persuasiveness. All the benefits that we mentioned for powerful talk. Most habits are extremely difficult to fix in the short run. But if you practice this a little bit each day, you'll sound more powerful in no time. 8. Putting into Practice: In this lesson, we're going to take the key principles from all of the other lessons and draft a message that you will practice. What I would like you to do, is think of some problem in your workplace, your community, society, maybe something even more personal that you would like to create a solution for a plan. Your plan, of course, should have three points. The entire message will last no longer than 2-3 minutes. You should use the included template to make sure you stay on track. The introduction for this message is very simple, and it's on the template. It has just two parts. The first part of the introduction is called the opening. For this message, we are going to use the opening to explain what the problem is that you want to solve. The challenge, of course, is to say concisely, you want to express the concern you have in one sentence and draft this as if you were talking to listeners. I live near the famous Erie Canal that runs all along the entire length of New York State. The cleanliness of the canal is always an issue, so my opening sentence might sound like this. As you know, our stretch of the Erie Canal has filled up, with more trash than usual in the last two years and it's getting worse. I'm stating the essence of the problem in one sentence so that my listeners will know what I'm talking about. Next in the introduction, I'll give my bottom line statement. In school they call this your thesis statement, but I prefer the phrase bottom line. This is where I summarize my plan in one concise sentence. For my example, I would say, I have a three-part plan to organize a canal cleanup that involves getting local sponsors, bringing in the cleanup tools and scheduling a cleanup day. That one sentence, the bottom line sets up the rest of the message. It says I have a plan and it previews my three main points in my buckets. Then I'm going to fill in my buckets with the details for those three main points. I would say, for example, the first part of my plan is to get local organizations to sponsor the event. Then in the rest of the bucket, I would explain all of the details. I would talk about the different types of organizations that we could get involved as sponsors like local churches, businesses that are along the canal, maybe some fraternities or sororities from the college campus and other community groups, like maybe the Rotary Club and so forth. But I don't write this out in full sentences. I just jot down talking points and key phrases to remind myself of the ideas that I want to express. You're not giving a formal presentation here. You're just having what you think of as a structured conversation using this template, and after explaining that for about 30 seconds or a minute, I would move to my second point, I would say, for example, the second part of my plan is to bring in the cleanup tools. For another 30 seconds or so, I would talk about the different potential suppliers that we could borrow or rent various tools from things like rakes, trash bags, and maybe a truck to a hallway the trash. You'll notice that I'm saying first, when I'm talking about my first point and second when I'm on my second point. This is for your listeners. These are called signposts. First, second, third, I encourage you to use signposts like this because they add clarity to your overall structure. I would transition to my third, I would say third, we will schedule a cleanup day. I recommend the first Saturday of the summer. I would then give all the details about when that falls on the calendar, the start time, the end time, and how to get the word out through local media, social media, email lists and newspapers. At the end of your message, you can also add one final sentence as a conclusion. This will essentially echo your previous statement. I would say, for example, "That's my three-part plan to do a canal cleanup where we would get local sponsors bringing cleanup tools and schedule a cleanup day". That's my sample, so turning this back to you, once you have a basic sketch of your plan with some of the details filled in, here's some other tips from the lessons to help you prepare and practice. Fill it in with keywords only, especially for the details. Don't attempt to draft the entire message word for word. Practice it allowed several times. That'll help you internalize the material without memorizing it. Use plain language and simplify any unnecessarily complex words. Eliminate powerless talk by avoiding hesitations, hedges, tag questions, and any other fillers. Aim for a conversational sound. That means as you practice, avoid reading or looking at your notes too much, and avoid memorizing the exact wording. Just glance at your notes as you practice and keep it conversational. Here's a summarized list of your goals for this message. Craft a clear and concise message that has a three-part plan. Limit the message to about 2-3 minutes. Make sure you use signposts by saying first, second and third, to signal your main points and practice on your own a few times. Finally, after you've practiced this a few times on your own, I recommend that you try this with another human being. You could ask a friend or significant other to listen. You could ask somebody at work. Alternatively, you could record yourself on a webcam or a phone to see how it comes out. You may want to try it a few times until it has that nice, clear and concise sound. Remember you're supposed to talk as though this is a structured conversation, not a formal presentation, so try not to read directly from the notes and make sure you don't attempt to memorize it word for word. Because that'll make you sound robotic and stiff. Keep it sounding natural. Looking forward even further into the future, you can use this basic template that has this concise introduction and three main points for almost any brief message. If you adapt it a little bit, you could adapt it to give your own update on your work projects to your team. You could use it to take notes and prepare for a conversation that you'll have with your supervisor. You could also use this as a starting point to think about an upcoming presentation you might have where you could organize that into three points. I recommend that you use this template every chance you get until it becomes second nature. 9. Working with Your Team (Bonus): If you're working together with any sort of group or team on this class, I'd like to give you some additional instructions to help you get the most out of it. Consider these suggestions and adapt them to fit your situation. The main goal of practicing with a group is to identify two or three strengths that each person has, then identify two or three areas of possible improvement. I'm assuming you've already watched the previous lesson on putting it into practice. I'm also assuming you have a designated leader of the group. But if you don't, then be sure to select somebody to guide the group through this process and keep it all on track. That person's role will be mainly to clarify the instructions, facilitate the discussion, and keep time. First, just like the previous lesson, I recommend that you prepare a message by filling out the template as I explained. You will pick a problem in your workplace community, society, perhaps with yourself and you're going to propose a three-part plan to solve it. Some teams prefer to select a workplace issue to keep this extremely practical. On the other hand, I recommend what a lot of teams do is select a topic that has nothing to do with work so that you can have a little fun with it and just treat it like it's genuine practice with no strings attached to actual work. You're practicing to communicate effectively, and that's really what matters. Take 10 minutes or so if you have not done so already and fill out that template on your own. Once you each have a draft of the whole template filled out, you should individually take time to talk through it to yourself a couple of times to get more familiar with it so you're not looking down and reading from it directly too much. Once you're ready to share it, you'll take turns sharing this message with the rest of the group. Groups of about 6-8 people work best. If you have more than that, you may want to organize into smaller groups so that everybody gets a chance to practice. Since this is not a formal presentation, you should do this from a seated position at a table, for example, where it's really easy for everybody to see you. This should feel like you're giving a routine update at a meeting or having a conversation with your supervisor that has a conversational tone and limit your message to just two or three minutes total. Once the first speaker is finished sharing the message, the group could hypothetically ask the speaker a question or two. That's purely optional for this exercise, but if you do Q&A, keep your answers concise and don't let the Q&A turn into a monologue. Then once this speaker is shared the message, the rest of the group will provide feedback. You should spend about one minute singling out everything that the speaker did well and be specific as possible. Then your group facilitator will make a clear transition to the team can then offer two or three pieces of advice on what the speaker could improve. The group should do its best to base that feedback on the lessons that you have been talking about in this class. There's a partial list of questions in the workbook that you can consider. Remember, you're looking first for strengths and then for two or three areas of improvement. The person leading the discussion will just facilitate the discussion and encourage everybody to participate. Even though you should start with the material from the class, really any communication behavior is fair game if you believe it will be helpful for that speaker to improve, even if we didn't cover in the class. If I were speaking really slowly, then you could recommend that I speed up. If I was nervously swiveling in my chair the whole time, then you should obviously bring that to my attention as well. Then if you have time as a group, I recommend that immediately after a person has received their feedback that you give them the opportunity to redo some short portion of their message to let that speaker apply the advice right away. This redo is a second chance to get it right. I might ask them to just redo the introduction or perhaps just redo the first main point and as a group facilitator, I typically ask them to pick one small improvement, like getting rid of filler words during their redo. Instead of filler words, I might ask them to pause between sentences more clearly. That quick redo is very important because it gives them a chance to instantly make an improvement and this drill and practice approach really helps people improve immediately and it's well-worth the time if you have it. The group leader can then end the meeting by synthesizing any big picture takeaways or recurring themes that came up during the session. Big picture. Each person fills out the template on their own for about 10 minutes. Next, give each person a chance to share their message in front of the group and then provide them feedback. If there's enough time, let the person do a redo of some small portion of their updates so they can apply that feedback right away. Then move on to the next person until the entire group has had a chance to practice. 10. Wrap Up and Next Steps: Congratulations on making it to the end of this class. You are now on your way to being more effective at your verbal communication already. Now the most valuable thing that you could do is apply these lessons essentially as soon as possible. Your next step, is to take your favorite tips and put them into practice right away. So here's my recommendation. Look at your calendar and select an interaction that you have coming up in the next day or two. It could be a one-on-one meeting with your supervisor, could be a group discussion, could be video call, really anything. Then look at this class and select two or three of the top takeaways that you can apply to that upcoming interaction. For example, if you have a meeting tomorrow, you could take the template you used to structure the three-part plan and use that to draft and practice and update for how your projects are going and then deliver that update to the group. Or if there's something you want to talk to your boss about, you could use that two-part mini template. Where you explain the essence of your concern, and then you ask your question. Or maybe you want to practice a piece of a message that you have coming up and work on cleaning up any of your fillers or bad habits like clutter. The key, is just to take some action and put the tips in the class into practice as soon as possible. Be sure to make the most of the workbook and the templates in it. If you have a moment, I would sure appreciate it if you took the time to rate and review the class so that future students can see what they're getting into. As a reminder, this class is part of my rise up series of classes. That looks at the top 10 communication skills that employers and hiring managers want their people to have. I invite you to take a look at all 10 of those classes to keep building your skills. It's been my genuine pleasure to go through this class with you, and I hope to see you in another class very soon.