Communication 501: Fundamentals of Business Communication
The most successful people in business can clearly and concisely share complex technical concepts with anyone. They run large firms. They are venture capitalists. They are "thought leaders." They have no fear of public speaking. They know how to communicate effectively and they are usually quite wealthy. You can be that person.
Here is where it all starts.
Before you can "wow" them, before you can present the fancy graphics, before you become a dazzling speaker, you must learn the fundamentals. You need effective communication skills. For those of you who are American football fans, it would be like trying to execute a complex defense before you know how to block and tackle.
In this short seminar we present a simple, robust STRUCTURE that we use all the time for our presentations, seminars and especially emails to senior leaders. For those of you who are technical people (like the staff at Communication for Geeks) and not authors, this structure provides a very robust "crutch" that will help you be clear, organized and extremely effective.
Like you we come from technical backgrounds, so we decided to use an example from our past. Throughout this seminar, we'll use a real example of how to communicate highly technical information to non-technical people. We will show you how to "put it in terms that are important to the listener."
READ THIS SECTION FIRST
Effective communication requires a structure. The are many effective structures, but we like this one. This guideline will help you clarify your thoughts and clearly communicate technical information.
In this overview, we will walk you through a simple, robust structure that we use for emails, reports, client meetings, presentations and even creating classwork. We will use an example from the instructor's career. In the case, we show an example of how to present technical information in terms that are important to the listener.
Please download the two pdf files before watching the video.
When you introduce yourself, you must build credibility. If you fail to do so, the audience/listener/reader will lose interest and quickly tune out.
The first step in crafting your introduction is to ask yourself, "Why should the audience listen to me?" This question is quite important because it forces you to think about the audience. Instead of thinking about all your achievements - and they might be impressive - think about what will resonate with the audience. What do they care about? For example,
The introduction can be similar to your "elevator speech," just be sure it's targeted to the audience.
CREATING AND REFINING YOUR RESIDUAL MESSAGE WILL BE DIFFICULT.
The Residual Message is the ONE thing the audience will remember from your report, presentation or seminar. The residual message is the most important part of your presentation and also the most difficult to define. As you review your evidence and clarify your thoughts, you residual message will change. That's OK...and it's expected.
The best way to test your ability to craft a residual message is to practice, with feedback. When we are testing one of our " lunch and learn" one-hour seminars, we complete the talk and ask the audience, "What is the main message of this talk?" If we get many different or unrelated answers, we know we have more work to do.
The KWUC is the Killer Wake Up Call. It is a provocative call to action. It's often called the "attention grabber" or the "call to action." Either of these names is fine, but we like our because it's a memorable acronym. It's got "sticking power."
The listener must be made aware or an impending disaster if they don't act. The example below is from a cashflow discussion with a start-up. Notice the "uh-oh!" we presented.
Throughout the presentation, think of what's important to the listener. In this section, we teach you to create the WIIFM - What's In It For Me.
You will notice a recurrent theme in everything we teach: "Put it in terms that are meaningful to the listener." This principle is especially true when developing your WIIFM. In our case study, we identified our audience as plant managers and operations managers, the residual message was "You can dramatically increase production without any capital expenditure," but why is this message imporant to them?
To determine the WIIFM - What's In It For Me - put yourself in the listener's prosition and ask, "So what?" In the case presented in the video, the WIIFM was "The new processing method will provide profitability and job security." (When production facilities stop operating at a profit, they close and the people are out of work.)
We usually start with three main concept or ideas, and as we refine and edit we may end up with two, three, four or whatever number is appropriate. For each main point, use the format below. Use complete sentences.
People often struggle with this concept, but it's important to understand and really think it through. In this section, try to use graphics instead of bullet points. People often neglect the "Relate" part of this section. After you state, further define then supply supporting documentations, think about why this point is important. The Relate section is very similar to the "What's In It for Me" we discussed in the previous lecture.
Once you've presented your evidence, restate the Residual Message and you are done! This wrap-up may take many forms. It can be a review, a simple restatement or a request for action. Either way, be sure the audience has a clear idea of the ONE main concept you want them to remember from your seminar, blog post, email or presentation.
You probably noticed that titles of the slides were directly from the outline. You don't have to do it this way, but it's a great place to start. You should be able to convey 90% of your story just using the titles. In our live, on-site instructor led training, students create at presentation of ONLY titles. And the limit is nine slides. Once the titles are complete, then the rest of the information is added.
Thank you so much, and we hope you enjoyed this class. Please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
"I know I have to have a WIIFM, but how do I do that?"
"How can I put it in terms that are important to the listerner?"
"How can I think like a CEO if I've never been one?"
You've probably asked these questions, and they're good ones to ask. If you've never "been there," creating a WIIFM might be difficult. However, if you understand two simple concepts, you'll be able to develop a message appropriate to people at each level of an organization.
Do you want to build a great career? You MUST be able to communicate!
When senior executives are asked what technical people can do to advance their careers, the answer is quite consistent: Improve communication skills. Effective communication skills in the workplace are essential for every engineer, programmer, developer, statistician or biochemst, microbiologist....
I come from a technical background, and in my 15 years of management consulting, I've had the privilege of managing large groups of technically brilliant people. I've seen the career challenges you're seeing both as a young "techie," and also as a consultant and project manager. Learn some "Tools for Techies," and you'll be on your way to success.
Please feel free to contact me if you'd like:
- to share an idea for a new communication course.
- a new course about consulting.
- information about Lean Six Sigma (I'm a Black Belt.)
- information about Project Management (I'm a PMP®.)