Hone Your Skills

Poised Insights On How Top-level Consultants Communicate

November 1, 2022
3 min read

Hi there - I’m Amanda, Chief of Staff at Poised. Our mission at Poised is to improve communication for more successful meetings. We’re building an AI-powered, real-time speech coach to make that happen!

I cut my teeth in client-facing roles as a marketing strategist and consulting manager. Eliminating these common communication mistakes would have landed me a lot more clients, and I hope these insights will help you level up as well.

Entry-level consultants are 3.5x more likely to ramble than senior managers and partners

Poised data indicates that entry level consultants ramble 32% of their talk time, as opposed to only 9% for senior consultants.

Rambling happens when we have a collection of related pieces of information without a structure in place to present them cohesively. It’s easy to latch onto the first thread that comes to mind and just start winging it.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received came from one of my professors. After noticing that I was rambling, they stopped me and said, “Pause. Think. Then say your whole point in four sentences.”

As humans, we naturally try to simplify connections and form stories based on what we’re seeing, hearing, or reading. Keeping things concise allows clients to understand your ideas more deeply than a rambling essay. They’re able to focus deeply on a few key points instead of spending energy figuring out which part of your message is important.

If I want to add more color to my original points, I make use of the Pyramid Principle. Starting high-level with my first set of four sentences, I’m able to deliver my main points, answer my client’s queries, and keep their attention. After prompting them for questions or asking if they need more clarification, I can always narrow down and qualify my prior points or offer more concrete examples.

I’ve found that this method has streamlined my communication tenfold, and my clients understand my message right off the bat.

Senior consultants tend to say 9% fewer filler words than entry-level analysts

We've all been taught to avoid filler words - easier said than done. Instinctively, we use them to fill space while we’re thinking of exactly what to say, or to fill in awkward gaps.

With how frequently we hear them on a daily basis, you’d think they’re fairly innocent. But filler words make it more difficult for listeners to follow along with what you’re saying. Your client’s brain has to work harder to filter them out.

Eliminating filler words and sounds is notoriously tricky.

One exercise to eliminate filler words is to find a partner and just start talking. Whenever you hit a filler word, have your partner point it out and keep a running tally. As an added bonus, you can time your conversation to calculate your fillers per minute.

You’ll immediately realize how often you’re leaning on fillers like “um” or “like” and also ‘parasite words’ - repetitive phrases or sentence structures you use to buy time or save mental energy.

Senior consultants are 3x more likely to use encouraging language

For junior consultants, 1.2% of their total speech registered as encouraging language, whereas senior consultants saw that number go up to 3.8%.

Clients frequently have a vague sense of their problems and possible solutions but have a hard time articulating their thoughts or offering them unprompted.

One trick I’ve found is asking probing questions and then following up with some encouragement for the client to elaborate on their first answer.

A great way to start adding that into your own communication is to find a couple of choice phrases to prompt your client. This doesn’t have to be complicated. For example, I often use, “that’s a great point, could you elaborate more on X?”

Senior managers pause 2x more frequently than analysts

On average, entry level consultants are pausing 1.7 times per meeting while their senior counterparts are pausing 3.4 times.

Back to that advice from my professor again!

What you don’t say is just as important as what you do say.

Pausing in between your own points gives your listener the opportunity to digest what you’ve just said before you continue. It also: 

  • Allows your client to share more than they might otherwise have. Often a second related idea will enter their minds right after they stop talking. If you speak immediately, they have to hold it (which also distracts them from what you’re saying) and forget to mention it altogether!
  • Gives you time to collect your thoughts before you respond in conversation. By taking a brief moment to think about what was just said, you’re able to tailor your responses instead of firing off what first came to mind.
  • Makes you look smarter and conveys respect. By actually considering what they’re saying, it signals that you’re forming an intelligent response while also signaling that you’re taking their ideas seriously.

One way to mitigate too-few pauses is to check in to see if you missed anything with questions like “what do you think?” during the conversation. But best, of course, is to simply make it as much of a habit as possible!

Always improving

With video calls replacing in person conversations, it’s a lot harder to get by without our usual helper of in-person, non-verbal communication.

Thankfully, Poised helps with that.

We’ve built specific features around all the points above - rambling, filler words, encouraging language, and pausing. For more information, check out our website and feel free to try out our free download.

Say it like you mean it.

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