Google the word “communications” and you get 675 million hits. This compares to 247 million for compensation, 78.4 million for strategic planning, and 13.9 million for executive coaching. All right, so it doesn’t compare too favourably to the 1,730 million hits you’ll get for sex, …what can I tell you!
By most measures, though, communications is a much talked about, written about and Googled word. And for good reason, …it presents a very large challenge to a great many people.
That’s the reason for the next few posts. Given the importance of this topic, I thought it would be useful to start a conversation about communication and what separates highly effective communicators – those who excel at making their point in a clear and engaging manner – from the rest of the pack.
Sorry, what did you say?
I’m sure we’ve all known someone who has a difficult time making their point. It can be embarrassing to have to ask the person to repeat him- or herself, hoping to get the gist of it the next time around. It’s even worse when the individual is your boss or a client.
Some companies also suffer from the same problem. I’ll bet we’ve all seen a print ad or a TV commercial and wondered what on earth they were trying to say. , ...or what the message has to do with the product they’re trying to sell. Of course, the issue is not really the company, is it. Companies don’t create ads. People create ads and some are clearly better at making their point than others.
What effective all about.
In a nutshell, effective comes down to being clear and persuasive. It means being able to understand what's being 'said', …without having to perform mental gymnastics to decipher and make sense of it. And since the ultimate objective is to cause others to want, do, act or in some other way respond, effective is often measured by behaviour or attitude.
I’ve been involved in communications on both the agency and client sides for quite some time. In thinking back over the people I’ve come across, and what has separated those who are really good at making their point from others who are not, I’ve come up with seven habits of a highly effective communicator. They are:
- Familiarity. For the most part, what interests millennials is different from what interests seniors. Parents see things differently than their kids. The language groups of like-minded people respond to is different as well. Great communicators get to know their audience and what makes them tick. Far from breeding contempt, in this case familiarity breeds results!
- Relevancy. If the people you’re trying to communicate with don’t care about what you have to say, it really doesn’t matter how well you say it. Knowing what matters to your audience is a prerequisite and should influence not only what you have to say, but also how you say and present it.
- Creativity. This means changing it up, …doing the unexpected, …delivering your message with flair and an appropriate amount of pizzazz. Doing what takes to get attention and build interest, ...consistent with what a specific audience will accept and respond to.
- Simplicity. The truth is, most people are inundated with requests, demands, expectations, and information. Each consumes time and brainpower. In this day and age, simple and straightforward beats complex and lengthy hands down.
- Brevity. It counts! Need I say more?
- Consistency. Effective communicators know that changing up the message before people have really grasped what they’re trying to say is a mistake. Repetition might bore some senders, but it’s absolutely necessary to drive the message home..
- Persistency. Tell them. Tell them again. Then repeat yourself to make sure they heard and understood what you want to communicate. This applies to public speaking; it also applies to advertising and most other types of communication.
So there you have them. I’ll get into more detail on each of these in the next few posts. In the meantime, the big question is: Are these really the 7 most important habits of a highly effective communicator? Let me know what you think.
Chris Ward is the founder and CEO of Riverhorse Strategic Advisors and a Principal with the facilitation specialists, StrategicRetreats (www.StrategicRetreats.net). He works with for and not-for-profit organizations to answer the question that's uppermost in every buyer's, member's or donor's mind, "What's in it for me?" and to build effective business, brand and marketing strategies to help these clients own their space.