As a former undergraduate communication major and current master’s student in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication here at Arizona State University, I have found passion in using my words to positively influence and impact the lives of the people around me. I love to use my communication skills to advocate for causes and organizations I am passionate about.
During my undergraduate career, I created an organization called Campaign for Kindness. Campaign for Kindness was initially a Facebook page/campaign I launched in hopes of raising awareness about the potentially devastating consequences of bullying. I was so excited to see that that little idea spread… and before I knew it, even Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper was on board and granted Campaign for Kindness Colorado’s first-ever Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week, where people wore orange shirts during the week to show they were committed to kindness.
The kindness fire spread – from elementary schools and colleges to dance classes and law offices, people were fired up about advocating for kindness! The participants posted on social media showing their support for the cause. It was amazing to see how many people quickly got involved. It was eye-opening for me to see how communicating and sharing something I felt very passionately about could resonate with so many people and encourage them to change their actions (and in turn, their communities), too!
I quickly saw that my passion project became a perfect “real-world” place to put my communication degree to work. Between interviews with local news stations along with a large slew of correspondence via email and online messages with people all over the country, I found myself growing as a communicator and as an advocate.
Tips for communicating effectively
Tip 1: There are several tips I have for communicating effectively with an audience. First, in order to effectively convey any message, the audience must be focused on the message for as long as possible. This may sound obvious but learning to construct your message in a way that captivates your audience is essential. One way that I recommend doing this is by sharing stories and testimonies that convey emotion. Creating an emotional connection with your audience will not only help them better understand your message, but it also will help them remember what it is you shared with them long after the presentation is over.
Tip 2: The next tip that I have is to keep it simple! Commit to sharing only a few points per lecture or essay. Three or four points per presentation is a great number to shoot for. When you do not have enough points to support your argument, you might be unable to build credibility with your audience; too many points run the risk of losing your audience’s focus. Both of these scenarios could render your whole presentation ineffective. I always like to address the points I will be covering right away (hello, thesis statement!) so my audience is clear about what it is I am trying to convey. I also always do my best to include data or opinions from outside sources for each of the points in my presentation.
Tip 3: Another tip is to know your audience. Researching more about your audience will help you tailor your presentation to accomplish the goal you are trying to reach. For example, if you are communicating with an audience of elementary school children (like I often did with Campaign for Kindness), I was sure to include points and stories that were appropriate for that age group. That also meant I would leave out a lot of the big numbers – those all ended up in the presentations I did for adults. I would figure out what it is that my audience wanted to learn and work to accomplish that goal. If you are struggling with tailoring your presentation to your audience, imagine if you were sitting down one-on-one with a member of that audience. How would you address them? What tone would you use? Would you use formalities, or would it be more casual?
Tip 4: Lastly, I am always learning more about the topic because I am advocating for it. Just because I may have a strong opinion about a topic doesn’t mean that there isn’t always room to learn and grow! I do my best to keep an open mind when reading and learning. The more I learn and the more I research, the more confident I feel about what it is I am presenting. Also, this confidence will help you when you encounter people with opposing opinions. Again, I do my best to always keep an open mind because there is always so much to learn from those who disagree! When I do run into opinions that differ from mine, I take notes on my conversation and what I learned. Those notes will also help me address topics I may need to cover in future presentations so I can more effectively communicate my thoughts with my audience.
Learning to communicate your thoughts with different audience groups and learning how to share points with those who may not agree with you are some of the most powerful skills to help you as an advocate, student or teammate.