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Communication Competency

By Dr William Lau, ATMS, CL

At a recent Human Resource Forum held at one of the hotels in Petaling Jaya and attended by about 150 executives from various companies, an attempt was made to identify the managerial competencies that are requisite for effective and efficient performance against the rapid changes taking place externally.

It was observed that too much weightage was given to information and communication technology to the oblivion of the essential communication skills required by executives at all levels of the organization. This competency was somehow unfortunately overlooked. Perhaps, those concerned are terrified of this subject.

The urgent need of the Forum delegates is apparent. They would like to rid of their stage fright; they wish to be able to speak confidently before an audience; they would want to acquire the inter-personal communication skills; the marketing and sales personnel desire to be able to make effective sales presentations not only to their bosses, peers, subordinates but also to the "publics" at large; the technical personnel wish they can effectively translate and impart their knowledge and skills to their production personnel; and, above all, the executives wish they could acquire the competence to speak before any audience under any circumstances.

Each year, organizations in both the public and private sectors expend millions of dollars on training their executives on communication skills. But, no sooner have they attended the seminars than they realized that they have insufficient opportunity to speak. Hence, they are unable to practice what they learn. In due course, they give back what they learn to the seminar leaders.

Past experience tells me that there is no easy path to learning the art of pubic speaking. One needs to read a lot, puts what one learns into practice, interacts more with people, constantly seeks out opportunities to practice public speaking at social or service clubs, at private meetings and gatherings. It is through constant practice that one may attain the oratorical eloquence and proficiency.

At Toastmasters Clubs' meetings; particularly, during the table topics sessions, many members and guests would actually want to volunteer by standing and speaking up but their nerves invariably pull them back. They are deterred by the common stage fright syndrome which needs to be overcome or surmounted before they could attain or gain the confidence and eloquence to speak before a public audience.

We need to appreciate the fact that the best of speakers do suffer from stage fright. This terror plagues and pricks every speaker. It cannot be entirely eliminated from one's system. It can however be controlled through adequate preparation and rehearsal. The other hindrance to effective public speaking is closely associated with the speaker's psychological orientation and erroneous perception of the audience and his mind-set.

My past three decades' experience in management training and development tells me that management personnel who sign up to attend my public or in-house training programs have this one common expectation amongst them. They regard me as their "guru" and have come to listen to what I am going to say or offer to say and in the process to learn as much as possible so they can enhance their knowledge and edify their work confidence. At no time do they expect me to fail. Most if not all do admit that such thought has never crept into their mind. Many to whom I have spoken have confided in me that I appear more confident than I feel. Hence, we are not alone in the fight against the "common enemy" of stage fright. This can only happen provided that I spend more time on preparation. As a rule of the thumb, for every one hour talk I give, I spend at least six hours thereon - organizing the talk, filling in the flesh, choice of words and phrases, tape-recording and rehearsing the speech, voice effects, body language, creation of mnemonics and preparing training aids.

Ask any of world renowned speakers about how they have managed to acquire such oratorical distinction and they will boldly admit and testify of their earlier association with Toastmasters. And, I have found it so to be true

Friends, you need not have to go so far to learn communication skills. Toastmasters International through its worldwide network of Toastmasters Clubs has brought this golden opportunity to your door-step. The search for speaking excellence invariably ends with Toastmasters.

08 December 2000
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