Communicating in our Zoom Zoom World…

Summer is over, and I don’t know anyone who isn’t faced with short-term fiscal year deadlines or long-term 2015 planning decisions. The amount of internal and external communications issued this time of year is at a peak. As we prepare one-pagers, presentations, and other communications, too often we find ourselves pressed for time, writing to colleagues saying, “Send me a few bullets” or “Just send me the link.” When you’re trying to communicate time sensitive or complex information, where you need actions or responses, this mindset is one you want to avoid. The following steps, taken from a Corner Alliance best practice, will help you write short, clean, and easy-to-understand communications.

Dedicate Time
  • Schedule time on your calendar to get away from your office and write.
  • Block a meeting room, find a nearby hotel lobby, or walk down the street to your favorite coffee shop.
Know your Audience
  • It may sound elementary, but before you can begin to write, you need to understand your target audience(s). Take the time to confirm position titles and awareness and expectation levels. These details will influence how formal or informal you should write and the level of background required.
Answer Two Questions  1)     Is your communication intended for a small number of people or wide distribution?2)     Are you trying to reach voices with strong subject expertise, those who are looking for quick facts or audiences with general interests and/or limited situational awareness?
Remember: Your Reader’s Time is Limited 1)     Make your primary point first. Answer the question: “Why should I care?”2)     Clarify what is most important with supporting detail. Explain the problem, impact, and/or options. Can a table or chart illustrate your point? For me, adopting more of an informal tone helps me be direct and concise.3)     Summarize your take-away and ask for an action or response.
Make it “Scannable”
  • In the age of data overload, we increasingly have to send, receive, and process huge amounts of information every day. Few people read every word these days, so make your message "scannable." Use headers and bullet points so the reader can quickly find your points.
  • Simplify your sentences. As my colleague Lindsey will say, “We need to cut and then cut some more.” If a sentence doesn't serve an important purpose, get rid of it. One of the best tests for a sentence’s length and complexity is to read it aloud. If you find yourself getting bored or tired reading it aloud, the sentence is too long.
Check, Edit, and Get Feedback
  • Always check your facts and edit for typos and grammatical errors before sending. If your message includes incorrect information or is peppered with mistakes, your message is lost.
  • Avoid jargon. Let the message stand out more than your language.
  • Don’t hesitate to get feedback. Often, we’re too close to what we’re writing – get a fresh perspective from a colleague who can point out mistakes you may have missed.

This fall I’ll be blogging about communicating with videos and how these products, along with smart devices, are changing the way we receive and exchange information. If you’re interested in future collaboration on this topic, please contact me at dconway@corneralliance.comor leave a comment on our blog. Until next time, zoom zoom and best wishes for continued success!

 

 

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