The secret to effective communication

Effective communication is not a gift but a skill that can be learnt according to Rakesh Godhwani, the author of What to Say and When to Shut Up. Which is why none of us should ever have to sit through a dull presentation again.
What to Say and When to Shut Up by Rakesh Godhwani. Random Business / Random House India
What to Say and When to Shut Up by Rakesh Godhwani. Random Business / Random House India

Rebecca Bundhun

We’ve all been in a situation where we’ve felt bored listening to someone’s presentation or speech. Our thoughts may turn to what to have for dinner that evening, while others may not even attempt to disguise their disinterest as they message friends on WhatsApp or play Candy Crush.

Just think of the British MP Nigel Mills who was recently caught playing Candy Crush on his iPad during a parliamentary meeting.

Which is why Rakesh Godhwani, the author of What to Say and When to Shut Up, published by Random House India, is determined to stop people from delivering dull speeches.

In his book on persuasive communication, he notes how companies waste millions of dollars through lost man hours caused by subjecting employees to unengaging presentations.

Mr Godhwani, who is based in Bangalore, where he teaches a course on communication for leaders at IIM Bangalore and coaches entrepreneurs, believes that effective communication is not a gift but a skill that can be learnt.

In the book, he sets out a framework designed to improve communication skills for presentations as well as for job interviews and resolving conflict in the workplace. He calls his method the “AEIOU Xtra E” framework, with the letters standing for Attention, Examples, “I-factor” or credibility, Objective, “U-factor” or connecting with the audience and emotional appeal. These are the elements he stresses are essential for delivering an engaging and effective presentation.

While there is the danger his framework will come across as jargon to some readers, the book actually unpacks and explains these elements in a clear and easy-to-understand fashion. He brings his narrative to life by drawing on a wide range of examples of inspirational leaders, using extracts from speeches made by Mahatma Gandhi, Barack Obama, JK Rowling, Martin Luther King, and Narendra Modi, among others.

It is noteworthy that Mr Godhwani uses the elements that he says will help in good communication – such as anecdotes and humour – in his writing. This helps to make the book an entertaining read, reinforcing his advice further.

q&a watch your words

Rakesh Godhwani, the author of What to Say and When to Shut Up, offers advice on developing good communication skills.

What do you think is the biggest mistake bad communicators make?

We have a lot of knowledge up in our minds that we want to convey to somebody else but the biggest mistake we all make is we don’t realise who the person is who is receiving the message. Audience analysis is the No 1 problem for most of us. You can see it in many corporate presentations, talks and even in blogs.

To what extent can you learn to be a great speaker or leader and to what extent is it an innate ability?

I somehow don’t believe that it’s a skill that comes at birth. It’s almost like any other skill or knowledge that can be acquired. All the world’s leaders were not born communicators. They learnt it. Somebody groomed them or they themselves figured it out. They kept at it. It takes time, energy and patience. The best example is Winston Churchill. He would always say that to make a five-minute speech, he would take about two weeks of practice.

What are some tips for those looking to improve their communication skills quickly?

Avoid blurting out the first thing that comes to your mind. The spoken word is like a bullet and once it goes out it can do serious damage. There are times you just need to stand there and listen. Spend time observing good leaders … and practise.

business@thenational.ae

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Published: December 23, 2014 04:00 AM

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