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Lesson 21. Continuous Improvement - Pg. 82

82 Chapter 21. Continuous Improvement In this lesson you learn how to keep your oral communication skills finely tuned. A colleague of mine has this to say about becoming an effective public speaker: "There's some good news," he explains, "and some bad news." The good news is that making presentations is based on a set of skills, not some innate genetic ability. Anyone can develop and refine these skills so they become better presenters. But that's also the bad news. Once you learn these skills, you need to constantly practice them. Otherwise, like a good golf swing or accomplished piano technique, the skills atrophy and decline. Use Your Presentation Skills It's easy to read a book and try to incorporate a set of skills into your next few presentations. You can work on the verbal channel, refining your central message, making it relevant to your listeners, and using clear, simple words to deliver your ideas. You can open up the visual channel, using eye contact to connect with each of your listeners and obtain feedback from them during your speech. You can also raise your energy level, with gestures that describe and reinforce your message. Finally, you can unclog the vocal channel. The human voice is a marvelous instrument that can add passion and power to your words by changing its tone and volume. Pauses and silences can also punctuate a presentation, giving it greater meaning. Each of these skill sets can make you a better speaker, but only if you constantly remember to use them. Otherwise, your presentations won't continue to improve, they'll decline almost to the level at which they started before you read this book. Practice Every Day As you begin this section, you may be saying to yourself: "I can't give a presentation every day. So how can I expect to become a better speaker?" Tip It's possible to become a better speaker, but you must be willing to practice. Think of public speaking as part of your job. It's something you need to work at constantly so you can be the best. Simple: You can practice your presentation skills every time you talk. Suppose you're having a conversation with one or two people in your office. Instead of simply focusing on your words, con- centrate on your body language. Are you practicing effective eye contact? Are you using gestures and vocal energy to reinforce your ideas? What are your facial expressions saying to your listeners? What is their body language telling you?