Friday, November 26, 2010

Help Them Understand

So, you’re trying to present a proposal and a lot is riding on getting everyone on board. You think long and hard about what you want to say. That is probably your first mistake. The focus of your presentation should not be what you want to say but what you want your audience to hear.

Whether placing an order at the drive-thru, training a new employee or writing a quick memo about a change in procedure, it is all about getting the right message understood. Say it so the listeners understand it. Sometimes the message is important enough, practice and pre-written speeches are common. This is so the right context and words provide the best chance of success.

Looking at the bookstore or a quick search on the internet will reveal hundreds of books and articles describing the importance of the right words and methods. They teach how to achieve this goal. Common to most of these resources: Be concise, precise, and specific in choosing your words, regardless of whether you write them or speak them.

A few weeks ago, I was asked to present the eulogy at a funeral. Most of what I knew about the deceased was from a very narrow perspective. I knew one aspect of the man very well and could have focused the comments on that. However, the audience was expecting more than that. Tailoring my remarks to the needs of the audience was key. This is true for every situation.

Proper communication recognizes the importance of knowing your audience. Describing the new cutting edge technology to the finance department requires a different set of objectives than when you’re presenting the same equipment to the sales force. The information is completely different when the operators need to be trained. The more the message is tailored to the audience the better the point will come across.

Although the message sent is important, the message received is far more important. If you understand your audience, you can consider how they will interpret and filter what you say.

We all know to avoid using “big words” when talking to five-year-olds. They simply do not understand what we’re trying to say unless we use terminology they grasp. This same concept is true in the business world. We want to keep our vocabulary on the same level as the listener. Do not explain technology concepts to accountants using technical terms. Do not use a financial analogy to demonstrate a point to the creative department. Do not send a memo to your sales force explaining the importance of “keeping the time interval between customer-interface opportunities to a minimum.”

The best way to establish proper communication with anyone is to recognize who they are and how they process information, tailoring the message to them – focus on the receiver more than on the sender.

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