Post by Jane K. Stimmler, contributing Women on Business writer
Let’s face it – communication is complex. How many times you been present in a business conversation and were sure you got it all, only to talk with someone else who was there and find out their interpretation was totally different. Or you’re listening to a speaker drone on in a meeting and really struggling to understand what he or she is trying to say. And it’s the same thing with emails and other written communication – it can easily be misunderstood or misinterpreted. To make communication even more challenging, the styles of men and women could hardly be more different.
I believe one of the most important keys to effective communication is to know your audience. Think about who you’re speaking to and what their point of view is. What do they already know – and want to know – about the subject? In a recent workshop I gave, we did some trial “power statements” and each women was asked to introduce herself by responding hypothetically when someone at a meeting or other event asks ‘what do you do?’ I noticed that many of the workshop participants gave responses that were technical to their field, and that they often used acronyms known only inside their company. So, if these responses were used at a professional women’s networking event, for example, where there were individuals at all levels and from all sectors, these technical, jargon-y responses would likely not be understood and could be a big turn-off.
Whether you’re writing or speaking, think of the first two sentences as the most crucial to getting the attention of your audience. Give the most important points – the executive summary – up front. Then, if you’re in a meeting or other in-person setting, stop and seek a response from your audience. Determine if he or she is on your wave length. Perhaps ask a question like “Are you familiar with this?” If they are, you’ve probably sparked two way conversation, and if not, you have time to clarify before moving on. When your communication is in written form, think of your first paragraph as the opening to a news story. What are the most important points to get across? After that, your points should build and support the main message in a logical, strategic way.
By understanding your audience and being strategic about your messaging, your ideas can get heard and you’ll have meaningful, more productive exchanges.
What do you think? Please share!