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 Wisdom to Win
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Communication - Public speaking, good writing and conversation skills


Good communication is...

Getting your message across to the people who matter (your audience) by being brief, interesting, informative and relevant.


How to write better (BASRA)


1. Brevity

  • concentrate on the key issues.
  • make recommendations as clearly as possible.
  • use the minimum number of words to maximum effect.
  • be prepared to revise, edit and clarify your original draft (usually more than once).


2. Accuracy

Be precise with your facts, grammar, punctuation and spelling.


3. Simplicity


a) use plain English 

Avoid clichés, jargon (if possible) and unnecessarily long words.


b) simple sentences

Keep your sentences as short as possible.

Minimize cross-referencing.


c) short paragraphs

Normally break up any paragraph that is longer than 12 lines.


d) use the positive (if possible)

(e.g. say ‘be good’ not ‘don’t be bad’).


e) use lists (numbered/bullet points) 

(to break up complicated text).


4. Remember and know your readers


a) write clearly 

Use words that they will understand.


b) avoid racism and sexism 

Don’t say ‘he’ when the person could be female (better to use the plural ‘they’). Communication 


c) bring your writing alive (like JK Rowling, pictured right)

  • use lively and evocative verbs and adjectives.
  • give impact to your first and last sentences.
  • be active (e.g. ‘John is writing a letter’ not ‘his letter is being written by John).
  • use an eye catching and meaningful title for emails


5. Analyse

Examine the pros and cons of an issue.


6. Be positive

Suggest to the reader what you would like the next step to be e.g. buy your product, or get an interview.



How to be a good public speaker (PISS)

PISS stands for preparation, impact, structure and satisfaction - here they are...


1. Preparation

Know your subject, practise the speech, check visual aids (e.g. Power Point) and relax beforehand with slow, deep breathing.


2. Impact Communication

(like Martin Luther King pictured right giving his 'I have a dream' speech)


a) be original 

Don’t repeat what your audience already knows.


b) be passionate, enthusiastic and entertaining

(use humour to illustrate your points).


c) keep it short 

(maximum 20 minutes).


d) never read from a script 

(use memory cards, if necessary).


e) use vivid images,

(including similes, metaphors and stories/anecdotes).


f) transport the audience into different situations

(e.g. say ‘imagine that’).


g) don’t over-inform 

(but use creative flair to bring the talk alive).


h) interact with the audience 

  • treat it like an informal chat.
  • be friendly.
  • keep eye to eye contact.
  • allow discussion because people like it.


i) use clear and entertaining visual aids (like multi-media) to clarify key points

Don’t over-rely on Power Point (some people avoid it altogether!).

Face to face communication is more effective than written or printed messages.

White (or blue) is easiest to read on slides.


j) speak slowly and clearly 

Use pauses for impact.

Repeat important points for reinforcement.


k) handle post-speech questions

(with clarity, intelligence and authority).



3. Structure (and simplicity)Ciommunication

Keep it simple stupid (KISS)!

Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address in 1863 (pictured right) was only 272 words and 3 minutes long.

Focus on one key message based on three to five key issues.

The talk should logically follow from one point to another:

1st Introduction (key message and objectives)

2nd Issues

3rd Conclusions and recommendations.


4. Satisfaction - know your audience

Satisfy your audience by:

  • empathy (putting yourself in their shoes)
  • responding to their expectations, motivations, mentality and attitudes (known as the ‘Emma’ formula).

So speak entertainingly with:

  • clarity and knowledge.
  • passion and purpose (the talk must achieve clearly defined objectives).


Tips for good conversation (QUILL)


1. Questions

Start the conversation by:

  • talking about yourself.
  • stating an opinion or fact
  • asking questions about the other person, or the situation you’re in.

Ask open questions which require more than a yes/no answer.

Say ‘What do you think about this report?’ not ‘Do you like this report?’


2. Understanding

Understand the other person -

  • put yourself in his (or her) shoes.
  • avoid arrogance.

But don’t be a pushover – know what you want and stick to it, unless the other person persuades you otherwise.


3. InterestComunication

  • be enthusiastic about what the other person likes.
  • maintain eye contact.

(just like Princess Diana, pictured right) .


4. Listen

Listen to everything the other person says so that you can make appropriate responses.


5. Laugh

  • smile a lot.
  • look relaxed.
  • treat the other person as your equal.


Key quotes explained



“What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure”

- Samuel Johnson (English writer, pictured right).

Good communication is hard work and takes lots of practice, re-writing and understanding. If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.


“The mouth speaks what the heart is full of”

- Jesus (founder of Christianity).Communication

Good words come from a good heart. So be modest and sincere. “The truth is always the strongest argument”, the Greek playwright, Sophocles (pictured right), said.



“A word spoken in due season, how good it is”

- Book of Proverbs (chapter 15 verse 23 in the Bible).

The effectiveness of communication depends on when, not just how, it is done. Communication

People will be more receptive to a message if

a) they understand it

b) circumstances require it (e.g. in a crisis – think of Winston Churchill’s, pictured right, wartime speeches in 1940).

“I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand”, said the Chinese philosopher, Confucius.




“Easy reading is damn hard writing”

- Nathaniel Hawthorne (American writer, pictured right).

Good writing is hard work and must dig deeply into your emotions. “No writing has any real value which is not the expression of genuine thought and feeling”, Eleonor Roosevelt said.




“E-mails get in the way of serious consideration of what you want to do”

- Bob Geldof (businessman and campaigner for Africa, pictured right).

Remember the sole purpose of communication is to make you better at your job or relationships.




“We have two ears and one mouth that we may listen the more and talk the less”,

- Zeno (Greek philosopher, pictured right).

You learn more from listening than talking. “Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d rather have been talking”, another Greek philosopher, Aristotle, said.



Best books



Desmond Morris (pictured right), Manwatching (1977)

Body language is important. Hand, leg and feet movements and body postures express our thoughts and feelings (e.g. folded arms indicate defensiveness).


Martin Cutts, The Oxford Plain English Guide (1985)

Despite what other people might say, you can:

  • start a sentence with ‘but’ or ‘and’.
  • end a sentence with a proposition e.g. in, with, by, on, etc.
  • split infinitives (e.g. ‘to carefully remove’).
  • put a comma before ‘and’.
  • write a one sentence paragraph.


Your favourite book

Learn from the reasons why you think the book is so well written.

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