What are personal presence skills and how can they be developed? How do we communicate effectively? Most crucially, why is communicating with impact important?  These are the questions that The PR Office’s Account Executives were faced with during a recent training session on verbal communication. Each asked to prepare a short presentation on two client-related topics, we were given the opportunity to attempt to answer these quandaries in a practical format, delivering our pitches in the presence of colleagues and sharing feedback that would allow us to constructively uncover the dos and don’ts of effective communication. Terrifying, right?

Absolutely. But also incredibly rewarding and informative. So, what are personal presence skills and how can they be developed? In my mind, personal presence denotes the ways in which we position ourselves in a crowd and, significantly, relates to how we are perceived by others. To this end, knowing our audiences and how to read and/or influence their reactions in varying contexts is key. Another crucial layer to this is the ability to transfer information to others in a simple and direct manner to achieve a desired result – it is not about who shouts the loudest, but rather deciphering how to use our voice to deliver maximum impact in any given situation. It is important to note that it is near impossible to truly ‘master’ these skills and even the most experienced orators have room for development. Rather than striving for perfection in all areas, what matters is our ability to present ourselves with assurance and confidence. In my experience, if you believe in what you are saying, others will too!

In a similar vein, understanding how to communicate is essential to both our personal and professional progression. Preparation is a crucial component to all instances of verbal communication, be it face-to-face or over the phone. Often the challenge is finding the balance between knowledgeable vs. scripted and/or unnatural communication. Whilst being underprepared will give rise to undesirable results, it is important to remember that overpreparation is just as unwelcome! Setting out a purpose and a message from the outset is an equally indispensable communications tool as it allows us to frame our delivery, whilst also providing an opportunity to convey a clear and result-driven idea that will engender trust from our audience. A number of other significant areas of focus were drawn out and explored in our session. These included – but were not limited to – pace, brevity, volume, emphasis, enunciation, intonation and varied vocabulary. The comprehension of how to communicate with impact is the first stage of our growth – it is how and to what end we apply the lessons learnt that makes all the difference.

Impactful communication is a mutually beneficial tool, advantageous to both communicator and communicatee. Whilst communication is itself a driving force of everyday life and each and every human interaction we make, we can only build personal and long-lasting connections when it is done right. It is for this very reason that formal training – further consolidated by experience – is not only essential, but invaluable. On a professional level, the ability to communicate effectively is what establishes PRs’ positioning as trusted advisors, prompting clients, colleagues and journalists to seek counsel with confidence. To this end, the power of impactful communication, in the workplace and beyond, must not be overlooked, nor undermined. But what does this mean in practice?

Our capacity to communicate effectively is an ever-evolving skill. There is no room for complacency at any stage of development and we must always endeavour to progress, be it through training, observing others around us, personal experience or – better yet – a combination of all the above. A noteworthy quote from the session succinctly captured the key ingredients of effective communication: “words inform, tone convinces, and body language entertains.”  In my mind, what is most vital is our ability to not only champion these skills, but to constantly strive to do better. Only then can we truly communicate with impact.

About the Author: Deborah Low