I have posted earlier about some excellent communication advice from the Heath brothers (Made to Stick), and from Frank Luntz. (Words that Work). They each have terrific suggestions for effective communication strategies.
But if you are like me, you can always use a few reminders. And I am constantly wrestling with just how a person can learn to communicate clearly. Part of this comes from one of the arenas of my life – I teach speech as a member of the adjunct faculty in the Dallas County Community College system. And so I try to explain/demonstrate/teach the basics to entry level college students. This is not as easy as it sounds.
Here’s my current summary to a four step process for an effective communication encounter/message/presentation:
1) Get their attention.
All effective communication starts with an effective “hook,” an engaging way to get your audience to say, “Yes, this is something I want to hear and understand.” Fail at this step, and nothing else you say will be heard at all.
2) Have something important/worthwhile/useful to say.
If you do not have anything worth hearing/reading, it is best to keep your mouth shut and your pen still. We are all overwhelmed with too many messages. So, if you want me to pay attention to your message, please make it worth my time. I do not have any time to waste on any message that is not teaching me/challenging me/helping me. Have something to say that is worth saying!
3) Say it very well, very clearly.
In a verbal presentation, this includes such issues as organization and enunciation. A good, effective organization (here are my main points; here are action items for you to implement; here is information you can use… the list is long, the possibilities many) makes it easier for the recipient of your message to grasp what you have in mind. Remember, no hassles! If someone has to strain to understand your message, you have failed to begin with.
4) Conclude with a very clear next step.
Call this what you want: a call to action, a request for a decision, the closing of the deal. But effective communication always ends with, “and this is what you can/should do next, now that you have heard and understood this message.” Or, in infomercial/advertising speak, “call now!”
Remember these four, practice them with increasing skill, and you will get your message across. Ignore them, and you might discover that nobody is listening.