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Tufts Professor Mihir Mankad and The Art of Communication

GGI Business Review is a new business series, capturing snapshots of the GGI Harvard Case Style Masterclass by CEOs and Industry Leaders.

This particular piece is a snapshot from Mihir Mankad's GGI Masterclass.


What is that one thing, that is common amongst people like Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln, or great Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius? All of them possessed exemplary communication skills, which helped them spread their ideas to the masses in a very effective way.

In an age where people are investing heavily in skills/courses that would improve their hard skills like coding or video animation, one of the most important skills that need to be focussed upon is “Communication Skills”. In India, a lot of students are very well versed in various technical skills, but they are not employable because of their lack of communication skills.

The art of communicating is often underestimated when talking about upskilling. But more often than not, it is the skill that makes one person stand out from a group of individuals possessing similar hard skills.

The most important aspect when talking about communicating is “Practice”. The more you practice, the better you get at communication. We embark on the journey of understanding this practice focussed skill in a better way with the help of Mr. Mihir Mankad, Professor of Practice at Tufts University, who through his years of experience as a renowned public speaker explains the different aspects of The Art of Communication.


When talking about communication, a lot of times the topic of “Public Speaking” comes up and it is viewed as a skill mastered only by a few. This is because Public speaking is consistently the most feared thing in the world, and it is feared even more than the fear of death! But the best thing about Public Speaking is that it gets better with practice, just like any other typical skill.

One common myth when talking about public speaking or communication is that it is co-related to our academics. This myth however isn’t true because grades to our familiarity with English. In fact, most people are good at “How to speak English”, what they underestimate is “What to Say”. With constant practice, one can easily master “What to Say”.


While communicating, we should listen carefully and try to understand what is the question really about. One should focus on listening to truly understand the other person.

The Art of knowing communication is knowing “What not to say” at the right time and knowing what to say when the timing is right. A person should focus on developing their communication presence to ensure that their ideas are flowing smoothly while communicating. Communication presence essentially means being your most relaxed authentic self in the most challenging situations. Effective communication also involves possessing the ability to be your most comfortable self in the most challenging situations.

Communication Presence: The ability to invoke your most relaxed authentic self in the most challenging situations

In order to sharpen the “What to Say”, one must practice consistently to develop a finesse over it.

While we consider what to say, we must focus on being concise and precise while speaking as it is one of the most important skills required in management communication today. Effective communication also involves possessing the ability to be your most comfortable self in the most challenging situations


While doing public speaking many people have the fear of facing a large audience and speaking because of their preconceived notion that they might end up embarrassing themselves in front of the audience.

Though it’s important to make the audience the hero while public speaking, at the same time it’s okay to not be perfect because the audience doesn’t bring the intensity that we think it does. Moreover, because public speaking is a very common fear among many people, most of the time the audience empathizes with the speaker and tries not to bring them down.

Additionally, a good orator doesn’t necessarily mean a good communicator, this is why focusing on communicating effectively in the right situation is very important to leave an impact on the listeners.

While communicating focus more on the conversation rather than the presentation or allocution


To become an effective public speaker, the speaker must follow certain nuggets to ensure that their message is clear to the listeners and at the same time, is leaving an impact on them as well.

  1. Speed of Speech While speaking, a person must focus on “How Much To Say”. As the attention span of people is getting lower, everything is getting timed now. Even the speeches of heads of the states at the UN are cut off in between, due to time constraints. This is why it becomes important to focus on the right speed of speech while speaking. The ideal speed of speech is 2.5 to 3 words per second.

  2. Aristotle’s Appeals Aristotle believed that a speaker’s ability to persuade an audience depends on how effectively the speaker appeals to the audience in three different aspects: Logos, Ethos and Pathos. Logos - A person must have a logical appeal in their speech along with a proper structure that contains supporting arguments like relevant facts and statistics which help to provide clarity to the speech. Ethos - It essentially refers to being an ethical speaker. Ethos means having credibility as a speaker. Before speaking, a person must establish credibility for themselves to appeal to the audience in a better way. Moreover, the speaker’s credibility should be based upon their knowledge of themselves on why they are the best person to share whatever they are sharing. This appeal is often underestimated but is very important as it helps bring the speaker’s reputation and expertise to the table. Pathos - Pathos is the emotional aspect of appealing to people. It is everything besides a speaker’s content that they connect to their audience with. It includes the nonverbal aspects of the speech like the speaker’s pitch, eye contact, imagery, storytelling, and everything that helps in making an emotional connection with the audience. Pathos helps appeal to the audience’s emotions and imaginations, via vivid language, sensory details, and storytelling.

  3. Sound Bites Sound Bite is a short phrase that encapsulates the idea of a speaker’s speech quite well and is catchy and memorable at the same time. It is important for everyday speaking, and it came from TV and radio. We don’t need sound bites while writing to be read because we can have a creative sense while reading there. But sound bites come in handy when you’re writing to be heard. While writing a speech, after every few paragraphs there needs to be a sentence that tells the audience what the summary of the content was. These few sentences are sound bites. For example, Narendra Modi’s usage of “Achhe Din Aane Wale Hai” or Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” are an effective display of sound bites in a speech. Sound Bites can be the essence of our speech, but almost every time we need to think about planting these soundbites carefully in a speech, as they usually make up the headline of our speech.

Communicating is an art that can be mastered over time with deliberate practice. It is an art that can propel a person’s career if used effectively and efficiently. This is why communication is one of the most important skills that should be mastered by a person to gain a competitive advantage over others. With effective development of communication skills over time through relentless practice, anyone can become a great public speaker.


Mihir Mankad is a Professor of Practice in Leadership Communication (Taught graduate students at Tufts, Harvard, and ISB amongst other institutions).

He is a global communication expert and an award-winning Professor of Leadership Communication.

He leverages a uniquely diverse background as a former national TV anchor, Clinton Foundation Deputy Country Director (India), and McKinsey and Bain management consultant, to bring in an experiential, practical, and engaging approach to the study and practice of verbal communication. Over 5,000 graduate students and senior executives have experienced his courses.

Professor Mankad graduated with a BA from Stanford University, an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, and an MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School as a Presidential Scholar.


If you are interested in learning about GGI's MBA Scholar program, you can learn here.

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