HAVE you ever walked away from a conversation and suddenly thought of a much better way to present your ideas?

Have you ever left a meeting frustrated because your colleague seemed to get credit for your suggestions?

Have you ever felt afraid to speak up because you were afraid of what others might think?

In today's highly competitive, team-based office environment, how you communicate what you know can be much more important than how much you know.

Indeed, your communication skills can mean the difference between success and failure, not only in getting your job done but also in standing out from the crowd and getting noticed.

Whether it is a conversation with your boss, a networking opportunity with people in your industry or an important departmental planning meeting, how you communicate your ideas is just as important as the ideas themselves.

A little planning can save you time, increase your confidence and make you much more effective.

Here are some simple steps you can take to help you get your message across effectively:

1. Consider your real goal

Think through your objective.

Are you trying to win support for your idea?

Do you need to persuade or influence?

Do you want to be put in charge of a particular initiative?

Are you trying to build a relationship with your manager or colleague?

Do you want to get credit for your contributions?

When you know your real objective, you will be able to tailor your message appropriately.

2. Know your audience

It is essential to know whom you are talking to.

If your boss is going to lead the meeting and make the decision, you need to understand what his priorities are and how you might win support.

If you are attending a networking event, consider the people who might be there and reframe the questions you might ask.

Always adapt your message to fit your audience.

3. Plan ahead

Identify your main goal and consider how you will back it up with facts, examples, details and anecdotes.

It will help to jot down your main point as well as how you will support that point. Putting your thoughts on paper is a key step in helping you to organise and remember your message.

4. Stay focused

When you are making your point, do not get distracted by what is going on in the office or the things waiting on your desk to get done.

You have a goal, so stick with it. Listen carefully to what is being said. Keep focused on how you can achieve your goal.

5. Be still

One of the best ways to get people to pay attention to you is to be still. Do not sway when you are standing, do not use your hands wildly, and do not fiddle with notes or papers in front of you or with a pen in your hand. Just sit or stand still so people will focus on your message.

6. Make eye contact

If you really want to connect with people when you speak, look them in the eye.

If you are in a meeting, make eye contact with each person and pay special attention to the decision-maker.

It is not enough to scan the room. You should hold someone's eyes for the duration of at least three words when you speak.

If you are in a one-on-one conversation, make eye contact as often as it feels comfortable.

7. Practise

When it is really important, always practise what you are going to say. This does not mean rushing through it in your head but actually saying the words out loud.

If you will be standing, practise standing and speaking out loud. This can improve your delivery by 80 per cent.

8. Be authentic

Say what you believe and be genuine. If you are phoney or appear to be acting, people will see right through you and they will not take your message seriously. Find a way to make the message uniquely yours.