In a lifetime of working in, studying and observing human communication, I’ve learned enough to fill about 100 books. If I had to distill it all into one actionable idea, it would be, “Make it about the audience.”
This advice is as useful when you’re talking to one person as it is when you’re presenting to a crowd. It also works when you’re creating marketing material, running a meeting, writing an annual report or sending a note to your babysitter.
It’s a paradox. As business people, we’re communicating about our products or services. Or we might be looking for support for our idea in a meeting or giving instructions to employees. Our business. Our ideas. Our stuff. Doesn’t the communication have to be about us and what we want?
The answer is, “Not really.” The chance of someone understanding you – and doing what you’d like them to – is greater when you design the communication around them and their needs.
Who is your audience? What interests them? What do they need to hear? What do they think they know? What do you want them to do? Why should they care? Thinking about the answers to these questions as you create and deliver your message increases the chances you will reach the people you’re talking to and that they’ll understand your message. Keep on reading
Originally posted at the International Association Of Coaching
For over 30 years, I’ve been a communication professional. Educated, mentored, accredited and experienced in every form of communication, I looked like the real deal. Yet it wasn’t until I trained as a coach that I truly learned to communicate.
I was working in corporate communication when I had the disturbing realization that how people talk to each other at work has more impact than the formal programs to which I was devoting my career. Fortunately, I met a coach. Being coached gave me an appreciation for deliberate and conscious conversation. Coach training gave me the tools. It forever changed the way I talk with everyone.
I learned to look beyond the story.
In earlier days, when I talked to people, I looked for the story. For daily news, it had to inform or entertain. For organizations, it had to line up with some corporate objective. Today, whether or not I am coaching, my focus is on the person behind the story. The more I focus on the person, the more interesting our conversation becomes. My attention builds the trust that helps people feel comfortable sharing their stories.
In coaching, I learned that the story someone brings me – the “presenting problem” – is not always the real issue. Probing for clarification has been just as useful in revealing what’s really going on with colleagues, family members and acquaintances as it has for clients. [Read the whole post...]
Sue’s Letter from Camp – Part Three
As I gaze upon the parched earth that is Southern Ontario, I’m thinking about thunderstorms. They’re forecast for tomorrow. Thunderbolt and lightning, very very frightening!
But apparently, not as frightening as speaking in public. As someone who coaches speakers, I see lots of fear – at least when people first contact me. We work together to take the scariness out of the experience. Of all the tools and ideas we use to make presenting resemble a relaxed conversation, the most powerful is practice. That’s where Lightning Talks will be very useful.
I was exposed to the concept a couple of weeks ago at Agile Coach Camp Canada. They were part of our “Getting To Know You” process. Participation was optional. Yet I was surprised how many people opted to participate. Aren’t these IT people? Don’t they have the gene for nondisclosure? Or introversion, at the very least? This was an event that busted all the stereotypes. I’m not sure participation would be as high in a crowd of my usual conference mates – professional communicators, coaches, and trainers.
As with the Open Space process, it was self-organizing, yet a structure emerged. We sat in a huge circle. One by one, people rose to speak for three minutes on a topic of their choosing: work, life, whatever. Some were funny, others serious. Each was an invitation to consider an idea or to take an action the speaker felt will be good for us. [Read the whole post...]
Sue’s Letter from Camp – Part Two
The format for Agile Coach Camp Canada 2012 was Open Space. I’d never been exposed to this type of event before and, when I looked up how it works, I was doubtful. Self-organizing. Are you kidding me? I wasn’t sure I could handle an event with no agenda. I need structure, certainty, order. Or so I thought.
As it turns out, Open Space is amazing. What needs to be discussed gets discussed by people who need to discuss it.
Here’s how it worked. We had:
- a good space – a hotel ballroom
- a theme – introducing agile work practices
- 80 or so people ready to learn, share, or both (Open Space can work with groups as small as five or as large as 200.)
- a facilitator to help get things organized (Ellen Grove did a super job.)
- empty walls, flip charts, tape, stickies, etc.
Unlike a conference where participants fit themselves into sessions and topics determined by conference organizers, participants create sessions on topics they want to learn about. [Read the whole post...]
When I was eight years old, my family put me on a bus and sent me to camp for two weeks. I loved it. Living in the northern woods suited me right down to the ground, which happened to be the bare, exposed rock of Quebec’s Laurentian Mountains. I made jewellery boxes out of popsicle sticks, sang campfire songs in parts, swam in water over my head, and slept under the stars. Best of all, I learned to find my way in the woods using animal tracks, the sun, bird songs, the moss on the trees, and the smell of the wind.
Today, I can barely find my front door without a GPS. Time for a refresh.
So I went to camp again – Agile Coach Camp Canada. This annual event attracts people – mostly from systems development – whose work is to introduce new ways of working. The labels for the type of work they do are “lean” and “agile.” Their goal, as I see it, is to help teams be effective, quickly, without wasted resources. Their processes are highly people-centred.
My husband and business partner, who’s part of their world, suggested I come along. “For the drive?” I asked. “No,” he said. “For the conference.” Knowing this man isn’t crazy and trusting his assurance that I’d be welcome even though my geek credentials are limited, I signed on.
I’ve been back home for over a week and I’m still processing all the things I learned. The experience introduced me to some tools that help us find our way. I see real opportunities to apply these ideas and principles in areas beyond IT, particularly in communication. In the next few posts, I’ll be sharing some of them. They are, in no particular order:
To be continued . . .
I have the great fortune to know a lot of truly cool people in the field of communication. One of them is Donna Papacosta, blogger, writer, speaker, podcaster and social media expert. Donna and I got to talking about Communication Styles. One thing led to another and, next thing we knew, we were doing a podcast on the topic. You can listen here and then do the fun and free assessment, right here on the It’s Understood site.