A Golden Communication Opportunity: Made or Missed?
Long ago I learned to appreciate the benefits of attending lectures on a wide range of subjects, even if they are not connected to my coaching activities. If nothing else, listening and watching the speakers present their ideas and deliver their presentations has always been a valuable learning experience and, sometimes, a source of inspiration.
A recent conference I attended, however, did not live up to my expectations, which was frustrating. More important, a very boring and long-winded introduction nearly emptied the room – the exact opposite of what was intended!
Whether you want to communicate day-to-day information, important news about major changes in an organization, or something as simple as the agenda for a conference, before communicating anything – before sending an email, moderating a meeting or delivering a presentation – you need to ask yourself three basic questions:
- Is my communication focused: what do I really want to say, what is my main point?
- Is my communication relevant: is what I am saying or writing useful and pertinent to the receiver?
- Is my communication compelling: is the delivery of my message capturing and keeping the attention of my audience.
Communication is the tool we use to interact with others, so unless we pay attention to the purpose of our communication – what we want to say, who we want to say it to, and the most efficient way to say it – we miss golden opportunities to achieve our goals.
Focused communication is very much like marketing. You have a message that you need to “sell” to your audience. If they are going to “buy” it, you must make sure that the message is heard and understood. You must make sure the value and benefits provided outweigh any downsides (the “price” you are asking). You must also reach your audience through the right communication channels, and be able to measure effectiveness and whether your audience “bought” it.
Twitter and SMS messaging can be good examples of focused communication. These two communication tools offer a limited number of characters to get your message across, which requires thinking about the most effective way to express yourself.
Communication formats without limits (email is a good example) are more challenging to use effectively and efficiently. To increase communication performance, I recommend that you start thinking about clearly-defined boundaries each time you want to engage your audience.
Relevant communication is not about showing how smart you are or would like to be perceived, or how important, impressive and liked you are or wish to be. Relevant communication is about making sure that what you are saying and offering has benefits for your audience and can satisfy one of more of its needs.
Before sharing your knowledge and trying to convince others of your brilliance, it is critical to identify who the receiver is, what he/she wants to know and/or wants to hear, and what would be most interesting and persuasive for them.
Even core messages must be adapted to the specific group of people you are addressing. For example, a German audience usually expects precise and detailed information; a British audience tends to appreciate a well written and presented speech; and a French audience looks for intellectual understanding and a little bit of flair.
Catering to the expectations of a multicultural audience can be a difficult prospect, but if you don’t pay attention to its diversity, you have no chance of crafting your communication effectively.
People look for clear messages to help them make sense of what is around them, either at work or in family and social contexts. So a clear message adapted to the targeted audience is crucial to effective communication.
In today’s connected world, with thousands of messages bouncing off people every hour, in order to succeed you must tailor your messages so that they are not only clear – they are also convincing.
Expressing enthusiasm, along with a thorough knowledge of the subject, allows you to create a feeling of trust and understanding with your audience. Warm personality, the tone of your voice, and passion for your topic are also key ingredients. Most important, though, is knowing your audience, and its needs and aspirations, so you can craft your messages in such a way that they resonate, and move people to action.
When we have a sense of our communication goals (what we want to say and why), a sense of our various audiences’ goals (what do they want and need to know), and the capacity to deliver our messages in ways that meet both our expectations and our audiences’ aspirations, then we have truly maximized our golden communication opportunity.