Clarity should be a writer's highest priority. While people might externally nod in agreement, miscommunication is rampant.
How many of us have had the unsettling experience of trying to assemble a child's toy, only to be thwarted by unclear directions. Anyone interested in healthy living will tell you how difficult it is to make wise food choices when they can't understand the contents on a label.
While aggravating on the home-front, imagine what havoc confusing emails or other written documents cause the already overworked business professional. It is estimated that millions of dollars are lost each year in fines, missed deadlines and productivity due to miscommunication. So how do you rid yourself of ambiguity?
Say it simply
Business professionals get into trouble when they try to ‘dress it up’. The best approach is to streamline your ideas so that an eighth grader could understand them. Keep your sentence structures simple. Forget attaching all sorts or phrases and clauses to your main ideas. These dangling phrases or clauses leave people second guessing your meaning.
Avoid generalities. Consider this statement, "Customer Satisfaction is down 9%" While we know it is down, we are not sure what market segments are involved or what issues were surveyed. Anecdotes and examples are necessary to make abstract ideas resonate with readers.
Bullet points & Sub-bullet points
People want to get ideas quickly. The fewer the words in any bullet point; the better it is for the reader. Bullet points written in full sentences, inevitably, provide unnecessary details. Sub-bullet points further confuse the issue. Rather than sub-bullet points, include additional information in an appendix. Always ask yourself, "Does this depth of information help or hinder my reader?"
Every company has its own jargon or slang, but also every business unit within that same corporation. For example, the people in ‘IT’ often talk or write using acronyms that only engineers or developers would understand. The same is true for people in benefits, sales or accounting. We get so used to our own vernacular that we forget others aren't savvy. People who are unsure may incorrectly assume or delay action. You may never know that the reason your recommendation wasn't accepted was because it was misunderstood.
Keep it short and to the point. Most business professionals tell us that they carefully read the overview or the introduction and then skim the rest. They just do not have the time to read a lengthy text. Documents longer than two pages are usually not carefully read.
Be vigilant about grammar and punctuation
You don't have to be an expert to catch errors in grammar or punctuation. Try reading your document out loud line by line. You will hear many hard to catch mistakes. If you have an issue with a particular issue of grammar or punctuation, take time to review the basics using a good business writing book.
What you communicate in writing reflects on your intelligence, thoroughness and professionalism. It is the image you are sending of yourself to your clients and colleagues. Being known as a clear communicator is a ‘feather in your cap’.
It is not okay to end meetings and presentations late...
When moderators say, "I am sorry we ended 15 minutes over time, but I hope you found it valuable," it is not really all right. People have commitments. Sometimes, they are rushing to airports or to pick up children at day-care; sometimes, it is to cheer their child on at their soccer game or to make a dentist's last appointment for the day. If you are their manager, it is likely they will have to tough it out and be late.
If attendees at your meeting are late for another meeting or engagement, others might be waiting, putting the next moderator behind in timing. If the meeting has already started, it makes the person who joins late on a conference call or webcast appear disrespectful or lackadaisical.
Why it happens
Meetings run overtime for a number of reasons. Too much time is spent socializing with attendees at the beginning.
There may also be lengthy discussion over an emotional issue or debate about the appropriate next steps.
Sometimes, the moderator is too wordy or down right unclear. As a result, there are lots of unnecessary questions and sidebar conversations. Additionally, the topic may be too vast to discuss in the allocated time frame or the moderator related unnecessary details.
What to do about it
Obviously, it is important to conclude a meeting on a timely basis. So what are some strategies?
1. Send out an agenda with time frames attached to areas for discussion and ask for approval of both the agenda and the allocated times. Then, if debate continues beyond the agreed time, the moderator should interrupt and ask people how they would like to proceed, reminding them of the remaining agenda items. Further discussion can be tabled for another meeting or the agenda set aside or adjusted.
2. Don't cram too much information into a meeting. If there is a lot of information, consider scheduling two meetings or reserving discussion of some items for later.
3. Identify any emotional areas and allow more time for discussion. As the moderator, have a sense of the reactions certain issues will have on people. Will certain departments or people be skeptical of the data or how it was collected? Will they be defensive of why sales went down or angry about proposed cutbacks in staff? If so, be sure to over-budget time for discussion.
4. Arrange the agenda so that the most important items are discussed first. Sometimes too much time is spent giving the history. While context is important, attendees are usually more interested in solutions. They fully recognize that things didn't turn out well, but their focus is on the future.
5. Be flexible. Sometimes, a senior executive offers a lengthy opinion. As the junior person, the moderator cannot interrupt. In those cases, the moderator must be prepared to adjust his content quickly and on the fly.
6. Be brief. While the moderator can't always gauge the amount of discussion between attendees, he or she can monitor his own words and be concise. Nine times out of ten, participants prefer an overview. If they want more details, they will ask for it. If the moderator distributes handouts with the details prior to the meeting, attendees can come in with their questions. Technical deep dives on a topic can thus be avoided.
7. Begin on time. If the meeting is supposed to start at 9, start at 9, not 9:15. Make your opening remarks meaningful and capture attention with a humorous anecdote, relevant story, startling statistic or relevant story.
While there are times when as much as you plan, things go array. Ending late should be a rarity, not the typical occurrence. Those moderators that keep the meeting on track are respected and appreciated.
Amidst all the changes happening at present across international economies there are
a number of companies that are still maintaining growth.
Let’s look at 3 presentation principles that growing companies apply to shift buying criteria away from price during economic challenges.
1. Position Your Business As An Expert
Here's the thing...
In today's business environment, you need to position your business as an expert with your prospective client before you show up for any meeting or presentation.
The best way to do this is to educate your buyer on how to become an expert consumer of your product.
Clients don't necessarily know what to look for when purchasing. They don't know what to do when comparing competitive options.
And guess what?
The presenter that provides this type of buying information helps audiences to breathe a sigh of relief. This will immediately position your business HEAD and SHOULDERS above the majority of other providers competing with your business.
By delivering an education based presentation at the right time during a clients buying process will most definitely work in your favour.
Your presentation should be constructed in order to stimulate and impress audience ears, eyes, intellect and emotion.
Ensure your presentations offer indisputable proof your business is an absolute EXPERT in what it delivers.
During the past ten (10) years EffectiveCommunication.com.au (EC) has served numerous clients to construct and deliver expert presentations for a wide range of audiences. The results in many cases have been very successful. To view some success case studies, you’re welcome to visit the ‘Return on Investment’ page of our website.
Many times over the years companies have decide to work with EC and have become long term clients simply because they say we present as business communication experts based on the E-newsletters we send plus, quality of our website.
Present your business as an expert – EC has seen this principle result successfully many times for many clients, which is why we recommend your business start or continue to do the same.
2. Solve A Problem… Don’t Just Present Another Product
This reads as obvious, yet continually EC works with companies and people who leave large amounts of unbanked profit on the table because they simply do not uncover the true scope of the opportunity before presenting products and services.
And what we know is this...
Presenting your business as a problem solver will alone INSTANTLY create a shift in how professional your business is perceived by your clients.
To put this bluntly, your business rises from being perceived as "just another rep selling something" to "an equal business, genuinely looking to help a client solve a problem in ways that benefits both parties"
You can not gain a much better presentation outcome than this!
3. Be More Thorough in Your Fact Finding with Companies Prior to Presenting Recommendations
This principle goes hand in glove with the previous principle.
Unless you have a pre-determined set of great questions that aim at the core of how you might help a prospective client, you will not get all the facts required to successfully serve them.