4 Essential Steps to a Clear Compelling Message

During difficult times it’s even more important that everyone in the company knows exactly where the company is headed and the reasons behind strategic decisions, in order to feel energised and motivated to contribute their best and make sure the business goals are achieved. Communication is the only vehicle that allows all employees to understand this vision and direction, which may be why my newsletter subscribers consistently place effective communication at the top of their list of priorities.

As a manager your role is to act as a conduit for information; ensuring that your team has a clear understanding of the company’s way forward and all the information that they need to be effective in their job.

When you think about any communication you need to be structured and consider:

  • What are the key messages that need to be delivered?
  • What are the best ways to deliver the messages to the individual or team?
  • How will this be achieved?
  • How will you measure the effectiveness of the communication?

Think of someone you know who is outstanding at delivering clear and compelling messages.

  • What makes their communications so effective?
  • How do they choose the medium through which to communicate?
  • What is it about their personal style that works for you?

I look forward to hearing your comments.

7 Responses to 4 Essential Steps to a Clear Compelling Message

  • For thirty years it’s been widely known within the academic community that lectures are one of the least effective ways to communicate.

    Despite this, lectures continue to be a primary form of communication both within the academic and business communities.

    The mere thought of listening to a lecture is enough to start many people nodding off.

    If you look at the presenters on ted.com (outstanding individuals from all disciplines discussing their current work,) few present using any of the most familiar lecture formats.

    Many people are perfectly capable of listening without hearing.

    There are some known techniques to assist people in retaining information.

    First, recognize that there are several different learning modes, and that nearly everyone has a preferred mode, other modes will be less effective. The usual divisions are: audio, text, images, physical–listening, reading, demonstration, hands on application.

    Unless you are communicating to a small group who all work best with the same single mode, it’s best to provide material in as many modes as practical–to reach the most people, each in their best mode.

    Psychologically, it appears that ‘now’ is about 3 minutes–we live in a series of ‘nows’ strung together. Effectively, this means that our time sense is spread along like pearls on a strand, each more-or-less separate from the others.

    From a practical standpoint this means that longer topics should be broken into 3 minute segments. This works out to about 300 words, or one typewritten page per segment. A segment’s content could contain any combination of modes which will fit from one to all.

    We’ve known for centuries that repetition was important to the learning process, but only recently has work been done to find the optimum frequency of repetition.

    Current research finds that 4 repetitions within a 15 minute period will ‘set’ the information into a person’s memory effectively.

    15 minutes is 5 ‘nows’, giving 4 repetitions and one period left over. There is nothing which says all of the periods need be consecutive, so long as there are four within a given 15 minutes.

    What isn’t clear from the research is whether the repetitions need to be in the same mode, or whether 1 rep of each of the 4 modes is effective. While everyone has a preferred mode, most people can learn to some degree using any mode.

    Having people rephrase or convert information from one to another mode is one of the best ways to determine comprehension.

    The worst is our society’s common “Do you understand?” Which at best relays that they THINK they understand–with no idea if what they understand is what you intended to convey. At worst the answer is ‘yes’ so you’ll quit asking. Restatement permits you to evaluate WHAT they understand–very often this is at extreme variance to what you intended.

    Another advantage to restatement, is that in a group, some will understand the restatement better than the original statement, and normally a single person who doesn’t understand represents several others.

    Finally, the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid,) applies. The simpler you can present things, the more likely you are to be understood.

    This has been the recommendation to legislative bodies for well over 50 years–though few follow it. It is better to use one easy to understand, plain English sentence than a paragraph of obscure language.

    Legislation is, in most cases, written not to clarify, but to hide the intent of the law and by providing multiple sentences, provide loopholes. In general, the longer a statement is, the harder it is to pin it down to a specific meaning. Note that much State & Federal legislation is hundreds or thousands of pages long.

    So, keep the message simple, relay it in different modes, repeat it either in whole or in parts 4 times in 15 minutes and have your audience state your message in their own wording to confirm that they truly understand. These actions will help your audience to remember and understand your message accurately.

  • Paradoxically the first person coming to my mind as an excellent communicator, especially in presentations but in any circumstances, looking backward, was not that good as a whole. I know it’s not exaftly the point here but I find it important that my best communicator ever was not at all such a good manager. By this I only want to say that I always appreciate a good mix of about everything needed for a certain job/position and that in ceratain circumstances a very good communication capability could cover not a few managerial problems.

    Coming back to the point:
    1. Main thing is that they cut back the content to the minimum and keep the basic principles: not a lot of sub-subject (preferably 3), they give in the intro what they speak about an at the end they never forget the sumnary, if slides, not too many and on one not more than 3 items (plus or instead pictures), they put in a few small things to laugh at a liitle bit, they direct some points to the audience and wake special interest and wait for the reaction as the comediens, they learn how to gesticulate and also, they learn by heart the peech or the main parts.

    2. They learn how he recipient likes to have the info, which medium an try to keep themselves to that to have the max impact

    3. The best part is when I could relaxband can speed down a bit my normal tempo, I have had some problems with public speaking, it’s better now, true hough, that lately I haven’t really occasion for that. Besides I’m best in mailing (again, when I’m able to keep myself back to be too much…). I’m also good at phone but try to avoid it whenever possible because the new way of using it (never switching it off) gene me a bit. In person, sall groups I’m rather a good commuicator, again, disciplie needed not to be too much…

    • Thanks for contributing Miklos. I particularly like your point about thinking through how the other person prefers to receive information, rather than defaulting to how we prefer to give it.

  • I find a frustrating lack of communication in all directions. It’s almost ironic given that we deal in communication media (it’s a cable company).
    How do I effectively communicate to my superiors that they need to communicate their mission, their objective and the steps they taking to reach them so that we can share their vision and help them reach it more effectively? I’m sure a lot of the procedures would seem a lot less contradictory if we knew the company’s goals and identity a little better.

    • Interesting and not unusual dilemma Anthony. What have you tried already? Personally if I was your manager and asked for clarity around the business goals and direction so you could effectively support reaching them I would dancing a jig round the office it would be such a positive thing. I suggest that you do what you have done here. Clearly and succinctly say that you would value the bigger picture and spell out exactly how that would impact you, them and the business.

  • Inspiration, charisma, talent, creativity, the Holy Spirit, Revelation are factors which can turn communication rules on the reverse. How would you address these? How are they applied in the company context as you see it?

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