Promoting effective business communication

Sam Bediako-Asante 

Any business that provides customer service relies on good first impressions. When a guest enters your restaurant or food service establishment, the guest makes judgments about the business based on the appearance, grooming, posture, and courtesy of the staff, and the appearance of the business. In other words, these factors communicate a message to the guests about the business and its attitude to guests. These first impressions can colour the guest’s perception of the entire dining experience. Once the perception is formed, even if it is faulty, it is very hard to change. You only get one chance for a good first impression

If guests come into your restaurant and see you replacing the hot vegetables on the buffet while dressed in a stained or torn uniform, they may immediately jump to the conclusion that the restaurant staff is sloppy. If the host does not greet them politely when they first come in the door, they may feel that customer service is not a priority. The appearance of the business itself is also part of creating a good first impression. Dirty windows, a tattered menu, untidy service areas, spills on the buffet table, and less than pristine washrooms can create a negative impression.

To create a good first impression of your business, you should:

Keep all work areas tidy

Greet guests as soon as they enter, even if seating guests is not your responsibility.

Make eye contact and smile at guests when in the dining room.

Ensure that uniforms are spotless when you enter a public area

Maintain an erect posture and alert manner

Non-Verbal Communication

Non-verbal communication is an important component of effective communication. Non-verbal communication includes such things as tone of voice, voice quality (nasal, whiny, musical), making eye contact with the person to whom you are talking, paying attention when somebody else talks, body position, distance from the person, and body movement. It is easy to say one thing but to communicate the opposite with your non-verbal communication. When the non-verbal part of your communication is in conflict with the verbal message, others tend to trust the non-verbal message. For example, if somebody tells you that he or she wants to hear your opinion and at the same time is doing something else, what is being communicated?

Working in the hospitality industry, you will need to communicate with:

People who supervise you; for example, the executive chef.

People who you supervise, such as apprentices, helpers, and dishwashers

People who are your co-workers in the kitchen

Other workers in the hotel or restaurant such as servers, hosts, and bartenders

Guests in the restaurant


You will probably communicate differently with each of these groups of people. However, effective communication is much the same no matter with whom you are communicating.

Communication is a two-way process. You can talk as much as you want, but if nobody is listening there is no communication. When you first meet others, they will not know how you communicate or anything about you. They will probably expect you to be a reasonable person until you prove otherwise.

To start your relationship off right, and to build understanding with that person, you need to treat them with respect.

Show Respect:

If you do not respect the person to whom you are speaking, your language and your non-verbal communication will communicate that. Showing disrespect for somebody will remove their respect for you. People who do not respect one another cannot communicate effectively and may reach the point where they cannot communicate with each other at all. Whatever personal feelings you have about co-workers, you need to communicate effectively with them in order to do your job efficiently and safely. Do not start off on the wrong foot by showing a lack of respect.

This applies to anybody in the company, whether it is your supervisor, somebody who works under you, or somebody who works in another area of the company.

Showing respect for somebody is not difficult. If you treat people how you would like to be treated, respectful communication will come naturally. Here are some additional guidelines to maintain respectful relationships:

Acknowledge other people’s presence with a “hello” or a smile even when you do not need to speak with them.

Remember their names.

Listen when they speak.

Do not intimidate them or make them feel uncomfortable.

Show honesty and consistency.

Show agreement when possible.

Say thank you often.

Offer your help.

Ask advice

Avoid status battles.

A smile is powerful non-verbal communication. A smile welcomes people and makes them feel at ease. It suggests that you do not have bad feelings about them, and that you are willing to listen.

Listening Skills:

A person who talks a lot is not necessarily a good communicator. People who talk a lot may actually be poor communicators because they never stop to listen to you.

If the talker constantly interrupts you, or finishes your sentences for you, the communication is only one way. If somebody constantly interrupts you and tries to finish your sentences for you, you need to keep speaking through the interruption. If he or she continues to interrupt, you need to say, “Please let me finish” in a calm voice, and continue talking.

A good communicator talks about things that are of importance to you, and says them in a way that you can understand. When good communicators are telling you important information, they stop often to ask you whether you have understood so far. Good communicators avoid annoying mannerisms of speech, such as “you know” or “like,” or annoying gestures like playing with a pencil or looking at the clock. A good communicator is someone who practices active listening.

Active listening:

You can listen about four times as fast as you can speak. It is easy to listen to your own thoughts at the same time as listening to somebody else speak. It is also easy to listen to only your own thoughts while somebody else is speaking. To be an active listener, you must deliberately resist this tendency to let your mind wander. Not only will you remember more of what the speaker is saying, but the speaker will feel that you are listening.

Others will know you are listening through your non-verbal communication, such as your eye contact and posture. You have probably experienced a situation when someone asks, “How are you?” and you reply, “Not too well,” and then you hear “That’s good.” You know you were heard because the response came at the right time. But you also know that you were not listened to. The difference between hearing and listening boils down to choice. You have no choice but to hear, but you do have a choice to listen.

Stay focused when you listen.

You may be an active listener, but what if the speakers are not good communicators? They may repeat themselves or go on and on about insignificant things. They may have a poor grasp of English or fill their talk with meaningless words. They may be too shy to come out and say what their real problem is.

Other Languages and Cultures:

Not all of the people who you work with will speak English well. They may be from other countries, or have little education, or both. Because a person does not speak English well, it does not mean that he or she is not intelligent. Think of situations where you did not understand the words being used, perhaps in school or while in another country.

Audience expectations:

When people become audience members in a speech situation, they bring with them expectations about the occasion, topic, and speaker. Violating audience expectations can have a negative impact on the effectiveness of the speech. Imagine that a local politician is asked to speak at the memorial service for a beloved former mayor. The audience will expect the politician’s speech to praise the life and career of the deceased.

If the politician used the opportunity to discuss a piece of legislation, the audience would probably be offended and the speaker would lose credibility. Of course, there may be some situations when violating the audience’s expectations would be an effective strategy. Presenters that make political statements at the Academy Awards do so precisely because the message’s incongruity with the occasion increases the impact of the proclamation.

Knowledge of topic:

Audience knowledge of a topic can vary widely on any given occasion, therefore, communicators should find out what their audience already knows about the topic. Never overestimate the audience’s knowledge of a topic. If a speaker launches into a technical discussion of genetic engineering but the listeners are not familiar with basic genetics, they will be unable to follow your speech and quickly lose interest. On the other hand, drastically underestimating the audience’s knowledge may result in a speech that sounds condescending.

Try to do some research to find out what the audience already knows about the topic. Giving a brief review of important terms and concepts is almost always appropriate, and can sometimes be done by acknowledging the heterogeneous audience and the importance of ‘putting everyone on the same page.’ For example, even if the audience members were familiar with basic genetics, a brief review of key term and concepts at the beginning of a speech refreshes memories without being patronizing.

Attitude toward topic:

Knowing audience members’ attitudes about a topic will help a speaker determine the best way to reach their goals. Imagine that a presenter is trying to convince the community to build a park. A speaker would probably be inclined to spend the majority of the speech giving reasons why a park would benefit the community.

However, if they found out ahead of time that most neighbors thought the park was a good idea but they were worried about safety issues, then the speaker could devote their time to showing them that park users would be safer in the park than they currently are playing in the streets. The persuasive power of the speech is thus directed at the most important impediment to the building of a park.

Audience size:

Many elements of speech-making change in accordance with audience size. In general, the larger the audience the more formal the presentation should be. Sitting down and using common language when speaking to a group of 10 people is often quite appropriate. However, that style of presentation would probably be inappropriate or ineffective if you were speaking to 1,000 people. Large audiences often require that you use a microphone and speak from an elevated platform.


The demographic factors of an audience include age, gender, religion, ethnic background, class, sexual orientation, occupation, education, group membership, and countless other categories. Since these categories often organize individual’s identities and experiences, a wise speaker attends to the them. Politicians usually pay a great deal of attention to demographic factors when they are on the campaign trail. If a politician speaks in Day County, Florida (the county with the largest elderly population) they will likely discuss the issues that are more relevant to people in that age range – Medicare and Social Security.

Communicators must be careful about stereotyping an audience based on demographic information – individuals are always more complicated than a simplistic identity category. Also, be careful not to pander exclusively to interests based on demographics. For example, the elderly certainly are concerned with political issues beyond social security and Medicare. Using demographic factors to guide speech-making does not mean changing the goal of the speech for every different audience; rather, consider what pieces of information (or types of evidence) will be most important for members of different demographic groups.


The setting of a presentation can influence the ability to give a speech and the audience’s ability and desire to listen. Some of these factors are: the set-up of the room (both size and how the audience is arranged), time of day, temperature, external noises (lawn mowers, traffic), internal noises (babies crying, hacking coughs), and type of space (church, schoolroom, outside). Finding out ahead of time the different factors going into the setting will allow a speaker to adapt their speech appropriately. Will there be a stage? Will there be a podium or lectern? What technology aids will be available? How are the seats arranged? What is the order of speakers?

While these issues may appear minor compared to the content of the speech and the make-up of the audience, this foreknowledge will soothe nerves, assist in developing eye contact, and ensure that the appropriate technology, if necessary, is available. Take into account the way that the setting will affect audience attention and participation. People are usually tired after a meal and late in the day. If scheduled to speak at 1:00 PM, a speaker may have to make the speech more entertaining through animation or humor, exhibit more enthusiasm, or otherwise involve the audience in order to keep their attention.


Audiences are either voluntary, in which case they are genuinely interested in what a presenter has to say, or involuntary, in which case they are not inherently interested in the presentation. Knowing the difference will assist in establishing how hard a speaker needs to work to spark the interest of the audience. Involuntary audiences are notoriously hard to generate and maintain interest in a topic (think about most people’s attitudes toward classes or mandatory meetings they would prefer to not attend.)


Most audience members are egocentric: they are generally most interested in things that directly affect them or their community. An effective speaker must be able to show their audience why the topic they are speaking on should be important to them.

The writer is the CEO of Sambed Consult, a Management, Business, and Investment Consulting firm. He is also a former Banker; a Professional Administrator; a Chartered Investment Analyst; a Member Consultant of the Institute of Management Consultants & Master Coaches of South Africa (IMCSA), and also presently, a certified and an accredited SA Specialist of the South African Tourism; Abu Dhabi Tourism; Jumeirah-Dubai Tourism and Qatar Tourism in Ghana.

Can be reached on +233277518634 /  +233208429432  or  Email: [email protected]

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