Communication is a process. When writing or speaking to others, communicators have specific goals: to solve problems, provide new information, or persuade others to take action. In this process, there is a sender, receiver(s), and the message. Senders’ choices can create understanding or confusion. How does your communication leave your audience – ready for action, or completely baffled?
Audiences are composed of people, all of whom have different perceptions. Receivers filter and interpret information from the senses to create a meaningful picture of the world. These questions will yield a variety of answers, simply because perceptions differ:
- What is a lot of money?
- What is tall?
- What is hot?
To avoid having messages misperceived, misconstrued, or misunderstood, choose language that will be understood by most (preferably all) of your recipients. Think of your audience before you communicate with them. Ask yourself:
- Why am I presenting?
- What do I want my audience to know or do?
- What does my audience want to achieve?
To deliver information or a call to action to your recipient, it must be planned. Just like painting a room, most of the time is spent in preparing the surface for the paint. To plan for written or spoken communication, determine your purpose. After considering your audience’s background, level of understanding, and desired outcomes, think about what they want to read about or hear from you. Then, decide on the medium (business letter, email, instant/text message, phone call, speech, face-to-face conversation, etc.).
As a sign of respect for the recipients, organize your information! People love numbered lists (“Seven easy steps to…” or “The three things you need to know about…”). Deliver your message to them in a neatly-packaged, understandable format. Develop your ideas in a linear presentation. Organization can be based on time (first, second, etc.), top to bottom, inside to outside, and a number of other different ways. Present data so that it makes sense to your audience.
Creating the Document (or Speech Plan)
Use the information compiled during planning and write freely and quickly. Writers must realize that writing a document is not a one-time happening. It will undergo revisions later, so in the first stages, write everything you want on paper (or screen, in most cases). Like planning for a party, it’s always better to have more than less. It will be edited later.
Writing needs to be read by the writer (and others) before it is delivered to the intended audience. The same holds true with a speech. Read your document, or if it’s a speech, present it (to a small group or recorder, if possible). Check for:
- Tone consistency – the attitude toward the subject and audience
- Conciseness – imagine each word costs you .75¢ to use (practice word economy)
- Clarity – after reading or listening, will the audience know what to do?
- Correct word choice – “their,” “there,” or “they’re”?
- Style – have you spoken to the level of the group in your own voice, expressing your personality?
Now, go back and reread, or re-present the speech. For goodness’ sake, be brief! About public speaking, Teddy Roosevelt said, “Be sincere; be brief; be seated.” Improving Communications builds on that mantra encouraging all to be sincere, accurate, and brief.
WHEN COMMUNICATING, ASK:
- Is this true?
- What do I mean?
- Does it make sense?
- Read as reader
- Look for tone consistency
- Look for concise writing
- Check for clarity
- Verify word choice
- Check: Punctuation, Sentence structure, Spelling
- Improve style
- Read as reader—again
Written by: Richard J. Atkins, Ed.D - Managing Director of Improving Communications - expert in Business Writing, Public Speaking, Customer Service and Leadership.