Thursday, May 23, 2013

5 Elements of Great Communication

To get things done you need to be able to convey ideas clearly and effectively. Below are five elements the best communicators employ to deliver their message, gain buy-in and build respect.

1. Respect your audience. Get to the point. Let people know why they are in the meeting and what you want from them up front. Then provide the background and supporting facts and figures. Letting people know what you want up front provides context, it shows you value their time, and lets the person prepare appropriate questions.

2. Be prepared. Never ask people for their time unless you know exactly what you want from them. Anticipate questions that may arise and do your homework. If you're consistently prepared you'll build trust and teamwork. That said, no one is expert on everything and questions may arise you don't have answers to. Saying "I don't know" when you don't displays integrity and character, and convinces others you're worth listening to when you do know. But don't let "I don't know," happen too often.

3. Relate it to them. Here's the thing, people are busy. They don't care about you. They don't care about your problems or deadlines. They care about solving their own problems and their customers' problems. Help them do that and you'll win them over every time.

4. Create an emotional connection. People need to know what you're saying will matter to them. Connect by giving them your undivided attention and linking your message to something that matters to them. A great technique I lifted from the media industry is to frame your message in a brief, relevant story.

5. Be clear. All the authority and empathy in the world won't help you if people don't understand your basic idea or how you came to your conclusions. Make a clear argument that people can follow, wrap your message in narrative, and be prepared with data and analysis to back up your points.

Bonus tip:

6. Ask yourself this question. Before you approach anyone - to communicate anything - ask your self: What do they want? Knowing the answer isn't the point - you can't possibly know for certain. But asking the question shifts your focus away from yourself and onto the other person. And that is the point.