Post by Jane K. Stimmler, contributing Women on Business writer
It never fails to frustrate me when I believe I have been clear and precise in my communication – and it becomes evident to me that the other party hasn’t gotten my message at all! Whether it’s a business or personal exchange, communication is my business – so it is particularly painful to acknowledge that it’s highly imperfect. And yet, though we may be speaking the same core language – good communication is hardly a slam dunk. Rather, it’s a challenge no matter who your audience is. There are some tips, however, that I have found to help promote good communication.
First and foremost – think about your who your audience is, what they already know, and what they care about. This will help you determine the words to use, the points to emphasize, and even the length of your communication.
As an example, if I am reporting on a marketing project at my client’s weekly meeting, I need to be thinking about each person in the room and what their base of knowledge is about marketing in general and the specific project. I also need to know what issues are important to them (do they care about how much it will cost? when it will be completed? how much new business will it produce?) and how much detail they want to hear (should my report be short and crisp or do they want a discussion in which each person can give his or her view about the issues?). If the group you’re speaking to has individuals at varying levels of knowledge – and interest – it can be tricky to get everyone up to speed and keep their attention. But if you know your audience, you have a much better chance at being successful in your presentation.
After giving thought to the folks you’re speaking with (whether it’s one person or one hundred), utilizing stories and examples to communicate is another way to get your points across successfully. People can usually relate to and understand a story – and they are more apt to remember what you’re saying. It’s frequently a more personal and interesting way to make a point. By the way, in the previous hypothetical meeting, I might have used examples of similar projects and stories about how they worked successfully for the client, demonstrating depth and experience.
Even with the best intentions and execution, communication can fail. But by focusing on who we’re talking with as well as what we want to say, and by making it interesting, we have a better opportunity to truly be “heard.”