The personal blog of an applied linguist, writer, & educator

Three Tips to Become a Better Communicator

Developing substantive content in EAP communication classes presents unique challenges. Elementary English classes can fall back on rudimentary features of language, but advanced English-language students and native English speakers need something several orders of magnitude higher if they want to grow and improve as communicators. So, I stay vigilant for new approaches that can work in an advanced communication classroom. That said, I gleaned 3 gems of communication advice (the annoying melodramatic music notwithstanding) from the video below on speaking tips from Dr. Jordan Peterson:

One. Read a lot. I would dismiss this as boilerplate except it plays such an essential part in the second piece of advice. But I would add something more, and it’s something I often tell students — read more broadly. Often students, most of whom are young, consume media from a narrow spectrum of interests — games, shopping, sports, etc. But, in order to be a better thinker, which stands prerequisite to becoming a better speaker, one has to diversify not only the depth, but also the breadth of knowledge at one’s disposal. This also develops the cultural capital that plays such an integral role fostering success for international students who need to get up to speed on cultural topics in order to establish equal footing with native classmates.

Two. Your knowledge about what you will present needs to go much further than what you will actually say. He points out that new educators often struggle with this (which they do). Moreover, I like how this point mirrors Hemingway’s iceberg theory of writing. In both cases, the communicator establishes ethos through subtle — even subliminal — cues, which enhance the credibility of the message.

So, how do you achieve this? See the previous tip — reading, of course. The advice for students? Overprepare — then scale back. Read more about the topic than what is required for the presentation. Also, if you follow the advice to read more broadly, you will have a larger reservoir of information from which you can draw connections.

Three. Don’t present to an audience — talk to individuals in the audience. I like the approach of singling out individuals in the audience and talking directly to them, as opposed to “presenting.” I tell my students to steer away from the “presentation” dynamic and just talk to the people in the class or audience. This technique transfers well to music performance as well. Play for an individual in the audience, rather than perform. All around good advice for live performance.






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