‘Speak and Be Heard’: Communication Tips from Eliza VanCort

Eliza VanCort presents a workshop at the Winter 2019 Pathways to Success SymposiumIn less than one hundredth of a millisecond, people make a decision about you based on the way you communicate. Your communication skills can define you beyond your expertise; help you to be well-known, liked, and successful; and can extend your reputation beyond what you know and can do. It’s as much about the way you deliver your content as it is your actual content.

During Eliza VanCort’s presentation, she offered graduate students and postdocs the following tips on lifting ideas to become better communicators:

  1. Use body language to take charge of a situation.
    • High status behavior uses open and expansive body language to command attention. Not moving your head, speaking in complete sentences, holding eye contact longer than normal, and strategically interrupting people are high status moves that, when used appropriately, can help you gain the upper hand.
    • Low status behavior involves using variable hand movements especially when your hands are near your face, looking away, and speaking in incomplete sentences. It also involves making your body as small as possible. Using low status behaviors can prevent you from taking charge of certain situations. However, low status behaviors such as smiling, which demonstrates appeasement, can be used strategically when trying to level out power dynamics or to make someone feel more comfortable.
  2. Use silence and own it. Silence is an effective tool that can be both offensive and defensive. Use silence when you are stuck or need to gather your thoughts to appear contemplative. When using silence as a tool, be aware that when speakers adjust their body, people look away and may lose focus. Therefore, try to minimize body movements when using silence.
  3. Adjust your cadence. For quick speakers, break your message into fragments and slow down to gain more authority. Speaking at a slower pace can be more effective.
  4. Adjust your pitch, lower or higher, to highlight certain information and gain interest. Use caution though, because using a high pitch too frequently can signal insincerity.
  5. Your pitch can make you sound confident or nervous. Therefore, be mindful of the pitch you are using, and when and where you are using it since your pitch is always telling a story.

Read more about VanCort’s presentation or watch her TEDx talk.