Speaking in the workplace has its specific rules. Follow the most successful business speaking frameworks. Be an effective communicator.
What business speaking etiquette is
Business speaking etiquette is the set of rules to appropriately and effectively speak in the modern workplace. Such rules include:
- The most effective business speaking frameworks.
- How to improve your credibility.
- The mistakes to avoid.
As an employee, you should respect business speaking etiquette to look professional, make the right impression, and avoid any embarrassments.
As a manager or employer, promote business speaking etiquette in your team to ensure effective communication between team members and within your company.
Business speaking etiquette rules
1) The W.A.I.T. rule
W.A.I.T. stands for “why am I talking?”
Communication in the workplace must be strategic. Do not speak for the sake of speaking. Speak only if it gets you closer to one of your goals. When you talk, make your point or goal clear. The “why” you are talking. It will be easier for your audience to understand your words.
It is perfectly fine to not speak at all in a meeting if you have nothing to add. You can simply state that you agree with someone else.
The more fluffy content you say, the lower your credibility capital in the company. In any situation, ask yourself “why am I talking?” before speaking up.
2) The S.T.A.R. business speaking rule
S.T.A.R. stands for “situation, task, action, result”. S.T.A.R. is a framework to structure our words. A clear structure helps us to be understood and keep our audience engaged.
When you speak, start with the situation. Share the context. For example, sales of the new product dropped in June.
Then, describe the task. What is the goal? For example, we need to increase the sales of the new product in July.
State the action you took, or plan to take. For example, plan a price promotion.
State the expected result of your action. For example, the price promotion should lead to a 20% increase in sales.
3) The newspaper business speaking rule
Everyone reads the title of the article first. Then, the subheading. Finally, the body of the article.
Structure your sentences as a newspaper article. It will help you draw attention to what you have to say. If we start speaking from the text, our audience will lack context. They will not understand our words.
Start with the title. What is the topic you are going to speak about? For example, our largest client asked for a price reduction.
Then, the subheading. Add context to the title. For example, the client received a better offer from our competitor.
Finally, the message. State your thoughts. Jump into the topic only once your audience knows the context. For example, we should not lower our prices, our client will not leave us for the competitor.
4) The telegraph business speaking rule
Business speaking etiquette suggests limiting your words to the minimum. Use short, familiar words.
Imagine that you are in the year 1890. You are sending a message through the telegraph. The cost of the telegram depends on how much you write. Thus, you need to send the shortest telegram possible.
Your audience works as a telegraph. People understand short sentences and easy words. The longer your sentences, the lower your audience’s engagement.
The Telegraph rule is based on the Flesch Reading Ease. The Flesch reading tests assign a score to a text. An easy text has short words and short sentences.
5) Business speaking for an 8-year old
It is good business speaking etiquette to assume that we are talking to an 8-year-old.
No one will ever know all the information you know. Even if they are in the same company. Even if they are senior managers. Thus, we need to always explain every concept. Like we were speaking to an 8-year-old. Do not assume that your audience is familiar with every concept.
6) Data & gravity build credibility when you speak
At work, you might often speak with business partners or coworkers that do not know you well yet. Thus, when speaking at work, credibility is crucial. To build credibility, speak with data and gravity.
Data and factual evidence help your audience to understand your thought process and your words. If you share data and facts, your audience will think that you are open to sharing and discussing. This means that you are confident about your words. Thus, you grow your credibility capital.
Gravity refers to how we talk. It makes us look more mature and confident. To increase your perceived gravity, take small breaks between sentences. Your audience will think that you reflect before speaking. You will also look more confident, as you are able to withstand those short moments of silence.
7) Business speaking etiquette to deal with a challenge
In a business setting, coworkers or business partners might challenge you when you speak. It is normal to have our content questioned.
The best way to deal with challenges at work is to prepare. Anticipate the questions that you may get. When you do not know the answer to a question, do not rush. You do not need to answer immediately. Thank the person for the question. State that you will take time to review the topic, and get back to them with an answer. Do not give a fluffy answer, as it will decrease your credibility.
Business speaking etiquette: the worst mistakes
The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors.
A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. More about the Rude Index and its methodology here.
Avoid the worst business speaking etiquette mistakes.
- 9/10. Speaking in an unstructured manner.
- 8/10. Not presenting data and facts.
- 5/10. Speaking in a complex language.
- 5/10. Using obscure terms or concepts.
- Flesch Reading Ease readable.com