By Jeremy Tiers, Senior Director of Admissions Services
3 minute read
Whenever we ask students to offer advice about communicating with their generation during the college search process, feedback similar to these three quotes appears every single time.
“A lot of the mail and emails we get all say the same thing. We want something that feels personal and casual.”
“When we’re talking face to face don’t sound like you just memorized a script. It’s annoying!”
“When students get sent or told the same generic “best place for you” vibe, we get quite sick of it, and we stop paying attention. Just be honest with us.”
If you want to increase engagement and cultivate deeper, more personal relationships (with anyone), it’s vital to not sound scripted and robotic.
That advice applies to emails, mail, phone calls, text messages, college fairs, high school visits, as well as your campus visit experience and all of your in-person (or virtual) events.
Here are a handful of tips that will improve your conversations and your communications:
- Practice beforehand. My daughter recently asked me how I’m able to get up and talk to a group or give a keynote in front of hundreds of people and not constantly be looking down at notes. The reason is simple. I’ve not only written down talking points ahead of time, but I’ve rehearsed out loud and in my head – usually multiple times. I also review frequently asked questions I get (and how I will respond), as well as questions I may pose to the audience based on the topic(s) I’m discussing.
- Make it a two-way conversation. It should sound like you’re talking with and to the other person, not at them. That will often require you to lead the conversation…but don’t dominate it. Ask a direct question as a way to show you care about, and want to know, their opinion or feelings about something. Empathy matters… a lot!
- Use the other person’s first or preferred name. If you’re speaking to a group, try and use as many first names as possible when answering questions or engaging others. When you’re writing emails, don’t just include their first or preferred name at the start. Find ways to repeat it again in the body of your message.
- Be an active listener. Building on that last bullet, be an active listener and focus 100% of your energy on what the other person is saying. Take what you learn and ask follow-up questions to get more context. Doing that allows you to better understand the other person’s needs which then allows you to respond with relevant and helpful information. Active listening can also create positive emotions that impact decision-making.
- Use more conversational, less formal language. When you’re overly formal it can be intimidating or even confusing at times. Too many people want to sound ‘perfect.’ That’s unrealistic and putting way too much pressure on yourself. Remember, the other person has no idea what you’re going to say. Focus more on sounding genuine, relatable, and helpful. We all sound a little wordy from time to time. And if you’re worried doing that will make you sound unprofessional, it’s actually the opposite. It will make you more relatable and believable, which is what students want and need you to be.
- Your tone matters. All of your non-verbal behaviors send a message. When you’re in person, eye contact is extremely important. Tone in particular involves the level and type of emotion you use (or don’t), as well as your volume. Depending on how you say what you say, the same sentence can have multiple meanings. What words are you emphasizing? Are you speaking too softly or in monotone? Are you too excited and over the top where it feels fake? The tone you use can put people at ease and build trust and excitement, or it can confuse and upset someone.
- Your pace matters. Slow down, pronounce things clearly, and take pauses between thoughts or before you answer a question.
- Speak with confidence. When you speak confidently, it completely changes your tone of voice. A confident person is almost always more believable. Conversely, a lack of confidence in your voice can make others question whether or not you believe what you’re saying, or if you completely understand it. Perception matters.
If you’d like to talk more about something I said, go ahead and drop me a note at email@example.com
And if you found this article helpful, forward it to someone else on your campus who could also benefit from reading it.