The key to success
This series of articles will dramatically increase your chances of success by turning basic communications into effective communications.
How often have you heard the phrase “communication is the key to success”? I would argue that this statement is misleading and that some communication is possibly more damaging than no communication at all. So in these articles I have decided to focus on how to produce effective communications. By implementing the simple steps outlined here, you will dramatically improve your communications; and take huge strides in achieving success.
I realised that I wanted to write this article, but it is such a large subject that I have split it into 4 parts. This first part focuses on the basics, what are the fundamentals in effective communication. In future articles we will look at presentation techniques including the pitfalls of PowerPoint, the importance of a critical eye and the review process. But for now let’s get the basics right.
Set clear objectives
Setting clear objectives may seem like common sense, but do you really think about what you’re setting out to achieve? Sure you know the subject you want to discuss, but have you thought about the outcome you’re looking for? I’m constantly amazed at the number of people who think there is only one way to deliver a message. If you don’t know what your communication needs to achieve, then the chances of it doing what you want are purely down to luck.
So think about why you are communicating, what information you need to share. Do you need your audience to take action after the communication? Are you looking for initial hand-raisers or customers prepared to sign on the dotted line? Do you need people to take out precise details or a broad overview of your subject?
Each objective may require a different approach to your communication; remember one-size doesn’t always fit all. It may be that you can’t hit all of your objectives from one communication. Be honest, if you can’t don’t try. All you’ll end up doing is diluting another part of your message.
I can’t stress this enough, but keep referring back to your objectives. You’ll surprise yourself at how easy it is to stray off message. Be critical of your material, you will only achieve the outcome you desire if you are continually referring back to your objectives.
Engage your audience
This is critical. If you haven’t engaged your audience then there’s little point in doing anything else, you’ve lost them and you’ve lost your opportunity. An engaged audience is attentive, they hang on your every word. They are interested in what you have said and what you’re going to say next.
It stands to reason, but so often when putting together a presentation or other communication, you get so tied up in your subject, you forget about the most important part – your audience. Put on a show, be expressive, be impassioned, talk with enthusiasm, and raise the expectations within your audience.
Think: what will make the audience sit up and take notice? You don’t have to stand up to present wearing a superhero costume, or write your blog in a 50pt typeface, what you need to do is find something in what you’re saying that people will be interested in. If the audience isn’t interested in what you’ve got to say, save your time and energy and do something else instead.
OK so it’s not always easy to find something engaging in your presentation, maybe you have to communicate a very dry subject. So here are some tips that may help you find the right angle for your audience:
- 1. What are the benefits? Features are all very well, but it’s the benefit that 9 times out of 10 will make the sale.
- 2. What’s remarkable in what you’ve got to say? Are there any statistics that stand out, or something in your research that really surprised you? If it got your attention, it will probably grab the attention of your audience.
- 3. Are there any analogies that you can draw on that will help bring your subject to life or make it more relevant to your audience?
- 4. What are you doing that sets you apart from your competition? This could be good or bad, wither way it will gain people’s interest.
- 5. What conclusions are you going to draw? Is there something you can mention at the start that will whet the appetite of your audience?
Know your subject inside out
The more you know a subject the easier it is to discuss it. It’s hard to present something with confidence and enthusiasm when you have questions and doubts in your own mind. Or are worried about not fully understanding the subject you are discussing.
There’s no shortcut to knowing your subject, it comes down to hard work and dedication. The people I consider to be among the best communicators can speak passionately about their subject because they know it and believe in it. They are driven almost to the point of obsession to know everything there is to know.
A good analogy would be an architect. Now any reasonable architect would be able to discuss the general materials and methods of construction of a building, but a great architect not only could talk to you about the stone chosen for the flooring, but also tell you about the quarry it comes from, its method of production, and right down to telling you about Signor Albertini whose family has owned the quarry for the past 150 years and insists on personally choosing the very best marble for this particular range of flooring.
Why is it important to know your subject? Because you exude passion and enthusiasm and can inspire confidence in you and your message from your audience.
Don’t clutter your presentation; ensure you aren’t padding with unnecessary details. If you are clear and concise in your delivery, your key points will stand out, your audience has a better chance of remembering them and everyone will appreciate going home on-time! Remember to review your communication. Here is a quick checklist to help you avoid some common mistakes.
- 1. Ensure your key points are covered
- 2. Avoid unnecessary detail
- 3. “Clear and concise” should be your mantra
- 4. When reviewing think about how each section relates to your objectives (if they it doesn’t relate, then the chances are its not relevant!)
So with brevity in mind we’ll leave it there.
Next time we’ll be looking at the pitfalls of PowerPoint, understanding your audience and the importance of strategic thinking.
Phil Wright has been working in the Comms industry for over 15 years and is a director of Oxford Creative.