Free article: Practical tips to improve communication

Published: Tuesday, 20 August 2019
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This purpose of this article is to provide a 45-minute interactive training outline that could be suitable for a staff meeting, staff development group, small group CPD session or for individual study. The training outline is included here while the PowerPoint slides and an accompanying participants’ handout are available to download.

Slide 1 – Welcome

‘Practical tips to improve communication’ is part of a series of Bite Sized Training resources designed to develop the skills and knowledge of those who lead teams.

In order to facilitate today’s training, you will need:

Slide 2 – Outcomes

By the end of this Bite Sized Training you will be able to:

  • identify why communication breaks down, and the reasons why your communication may not always be successful
  • use your words, tone and body language to express yourself clearly
  • use the communication cycle to manage communication and improve understanding.

Slide 3 – What is effective communication?


  • What do you think makes for effective communication?
  • Record your ideas on sticky notes and share with the group.
  • Now watch this short video clip ( and see how your list compares.

Slide 4 – Communication breakdown

In any environment, communication can break down for all sorts of reasons. Most commonly, communication breaks down due to:

  • Interpretation: One person’s interpretation of events – what was communicated, how it was communicated or when it was communicated – is different from another person’s.
  • Assumptions: We often listen to our thoughts rather than facts. Listening to thoughts can lead to assumptions that are not based on evidence.
  • Lack of concentration: Communication takes time and energy, and it isn’t always easy. If we don’t concentrate, we can misunderstand or take away the wrong message.
  • Mismatch: Sometimes we can simply be talking to the wrong person about the wrong thing.
  • Language and culture: Whenever we communicate, we bring our own understanding of the words we use and their cultural significance to our communication. So do the people we communicate with. Their understanding of the words we use, and their implied meaning, may well be different from ours.

Slide 5 – Over to you


  • Think of an occasion when you experienced miscommunication and consider whether it was caused by:
    • interpretation
    • assumptions
    • lack of concentration
    • mismatch
    • language and culture.
  • What would you do differently now?

Slide 6 – The effects of communication breakdown

When communication breaks down, the ripples of the breakdown can be felt across the organisation.

Often, those outcomes will include:

  • Wasted time: Time is wasted while people sort out the problem, rebuild relationships or complete a task.
  • Unnecessary errors: Failure to communicate accurately and clearly can lead to errors that might hinder pupil learning and progress, staff effectiveness or people’s well-being.
  • Arguments: No one likes to get things wrong or to be wronged. Arguments are not productive and can waste time in a busy day.
  • Bad personal relationships: Any organisation is only as good as the teams within it. Poor communication can lead to damaged relationships and ineffective teams.
  • Unproductive meetings: It is hard enough to find time for meetings anyway, so why waste precious time sorting out miscommunication?
  • Lack of trust: If one person perceives that another has ‘wronged’ them due to poor communication, it can be difficult to rebuild that trust.
  • Poor team working: For teams to be effective, all team members need to communicate clearly.
  • Low morale: Breakdowns in communication can lead to a spiral of discontent and miscommunication which, in turn, leads to ever-lowering morale.
  • Reuced effectiveness: Time taken to sort breakdowns in communication could be time spent on more productive things.

Slide 7 – Message components

Of course, it is not just what we say that makes up our communication. In fact, only 7% of our communication is made up of the words we use. The rest of our communication consists of our tone of voice (38%) and our body language (55%).

So, in fact, 93% of all of our communication has nothing to do with your words at all.



If 93% of our communication is not from the words we use, what does that tell us about our communication in the organisation through email, text messages, notes and the telephone?

Slide 8 – Non-verbal communication

In order to communicate clearly, as well as being able to communicate what we want to say, we also need to listen and respond appropriately to what others are communicating to us – remembering that much of this communication will not be spoken.

You will need to access this video clip for the activity:


  • As you watch the video about non-verbal communication, consider what it says about how we communicate.
  • Share your ideas with the group.

Slide 9 – The communication cycle

Most effective communication repeatedly cycles through four steps:

  1. Inform – instigate discussion, such as giving feedback on performance.
  2. Invite – invite a response by asking open questions to get more information and closed questions to get confirmation.
  3. Listen – if you have asked a question, do the person the courtesy of listening to understand; not assuming and then interrupting.
  4. Acknowledge – accept what they have said, and check that you have received the message clearly.

Once we get to step 4, we are then back to the start of the cycle and we go around again for as long as the communication is effective.


Try out the communication cycle using one of these scenarios:

  • You are discussing plans for next week’s team meeting.
  • You have asked to meet a colleague about their time keeping.
  • A colleague has asked to see you about a possible leave of absence.
  • You are responding to an email that you don’t understand. 

Slide 10 – Making it work at work


What will you do as a result of this Bite Sized Training?

Working in groups, look at the action sheet you have produced during today’s training.

  • What are the three key learning points for you?
  • How will you know when your change has been successful?

Slide 11 – Where next?

Practical tips to improve communication is the first in a series of Bite Sized Training resources designed to develop the skills and knowledge of those who lead teams.

Bite Sized Training offers a wide range of organisation-based CPD sessions designed to be used as sharply focused yet active training sessions of no more than 45 minutes in length. Bite Sized Training materials are produced by Steve Burnage through Steve is an experienced author, trainer and education consultant with over 25 years’ experience of working in UK schools.

For details of other CPD offered through Bite Sized Training, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call +44767 858360.


Use the following items in the toolkit to put the ideas in the training into practice.

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