Careers

5 communication tricks Warren Buffett and other successful leaders use to get ahead

Legendary investor and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett realized an important career lesson early on: Without the right delivery, even the smartest idea can fall flat.

So at 19, Buffett, who at the time could barely hold a conversation, enrolled in a communication course taught at Dale Carnegie, the institute named for the influential speaker and author best known for "How to Win Friends and Influence People."

The skills he learned helped him go from awkward to confident, and have helped him succeed in business.

"If you can't communicate and talk to other people and get across your ideas," Buffett says, "you're giving up your potential."

Other highly successful leaders agree.

Facebook COO and best-selling author Sheryl Sandberg, billionaire Richard Branson and serial entrepreneur and investor Marcus Lemonis all echo Buffett's suggestion.

As Branson, founder of the Virgin Group says, "Communication is a skill that you can learn. It's like riding a bicycle or typing. If you're willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life."

Current employer data supports his claim. The ability to speak and write effectively is one of the most in-demand "soft skills" employers are looking for right now, according to analysis of some 940,000 job listings.

Here are a few of the communication tricks that Buffett and other successful business leaders swear by:

Warren Buffett
David A. Grogan | CNBC
Warren Buffett

1. Jot down notes, not a draft

If you watch Buffett speak, you'll see that he rarely looks at a piece of paper. That's because one of Carnegie's core principles is that a good speech is never typed up beforehand.

Whether you're preparing a presentation or gearing up for a pitch meeting with your boss, prepare notes, not a full draft, of whatever you want to say.

Having your key points jotted down will give you an outline of what you want to say, which will make you more confident, while avoiding the biggest pitfall of preparing a full speech, appearing like a robot.

2. Be more energetic

As Carnegie put it, "Even people with only mediocre speaking ability may make superb talks if they will speak about something that has deeply stirred them."

An easy way to show more enthusiasm is to smile. Smiling, demonstrating positive energy and exuding confidence make a huge difference, says Joe Hart, CEO of Dale Carnegie.

According to scientific studies, the mere act of smiling triggers the release of hormones that are mood-boosting

Buffett became passionate about investing, money and achieving success at a young age. That enthusiasm comes through in his speeches and interviews and makes listening to him enjoyable.

"Communication is a skill you can learn." -Richard Branson, founder of The Virgin Group

3. Say the other person's name

"Dale Carnegie says that to every person, his or her name is the sweetest sound in any language," Hart tells CNBC.

While you won't want to overdo it, using a person's name when chatting or when thanking him or her shows respect, acceptance and friendliness, Hart says.

If you want to become better at remembering people's names, experts suggest creating a visual association after you meet someone.

For example, if you meet someone named "Brian" and he is wearing big glasses, make a mental note of "Brian with the big glasses." Having a picture associated with a person's name will help you remember it more.

4. Use confidence-boosting body language

Marcus Lemonis, who coaches entrepreneurs on CNBC's "The Profit," pays special attention to body language when analyzing someone's leadership abilities.

He encourages bosses and employees alike to pay attention to the tone of voice, facial expression and gestures. According to body language experts, people who stand up straight, make occasional gestures and eye contact appear more competent, research shows.

In addition, make sure to breathe when talking. Often when someone is nervous, his voice becomes more high-pitched and breathing becomes shallow, which can convey fear.

5. Make sure to listen

While it's important to know how to speak well, it's also crucial to know how to listen, Branson says. In order to advance in your career, you need to "listen more than you talk," he says.

Don't let your eagerness to speak prevent you from hearing another person's point or suggestion.

According to the Virgin Group founder, "If you aren't listening, you are missing out."

Check out the email writing tips the CEO of a $16-billion company recommends