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Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

For my first “official posting” I think I’ll start with the basics….It all comes down to communication. If you can’t effectively communicate your ideas, concerns, emotions, or whatever, you’ll never be able to get others to “come along for the ride”. The better you communicate what’s in your head, the more likely the outcome will be what you were looking for.

Communication happens many ways, but almost all of them use words whether in the form of pictures (which substitute for words) or the written or spoken words themselves. Of course, there are exceptions like body language (which is subject to the base emotions and experiences of the sender AND receiver and prone to extreme misinterpretation – probably a subject for another posting).

For now, I’d like to concentrate the thrust of this post towards the general, written form of communication, but before getting to “the rules” (or guidelines if you prefer), we should talk a bit about the medium that you will be using to communicate with. The two main categories for the purposes of this posting are “published” and “presented”.

When publishing, whether via email, white paper, blog, etc., you need to be very purposeful about what is written. These documents are read “privately” with no room for give-and-take conversational flow until AFTER it is read. You need to be very clear about your messaging or you can pay the price of misinterpretation which can result in under-reaction, or over-reaction. These publications can vary in length and are as detailed or abbreviated as deemed appropriate to the message you’re attempting to convey.

When presenting, you have the added luxury of adding “spoken words” to your previously written ones. Of course, you still have to “keep it on point” since your audience and the allotted time-slot will dictate the cadence for you if you don’t. With presentations, you do have the option of writing less and talking more, but at the end of the day, “the rules” still apply, and you’ve still got to get your message across.

  1. Know your audience
    • What do they want to know? – first and foremost on the list…if you don’t get this right, you’re screwed!
    • What do you NEED to tell them? – get to the point(s) in as straight forward a manner as possible or you will “lose them”
    • How do they “listen”? – are they picture people?, wordy people?, “bullets, with verbal elaboration” people?, spreadsheet people?, or something else!
    • How do they make decisions? – based on data?, emotion?, dollars and cents (which is often a combination of data AND emotion)
  2. Decide what you want as an outcome(s)
    • Are you looking for a decision(s)? – make sure you ask for it (them), along with deadlines and consequences for bad decisions, or worse…no decisions!
    • Are you looking to share information? – sharing for the sake of sharing still needs to have a purpose, otherwise you’re wasting YOUR energy and THEIR time
    • Are you looking for support? – asking for help requires a convincing argument, or you’ll wind up “doing it on your own”
    • Are you looking for action(s) to take place? – identify specific individuals (avoid vague group actions and target a single point of contact instead) along with appropriate time-lines
    • Are you looking for “all of the above”? – then make sure that you articulate each point appropriately and KEEP THEM SEPARATE!
  3. Be clear – “Say what you mean, and mean what you say”
    • Use “commonly understood” language – if you’re unsure about the audience’s level of understanding, define the terms and the concepts in enough detail to ensure everyone “get’s it”
    • Be succinct – avoid “colorful” prose unless you’re “selling something”, writing poetry or creating blog postings 😉
    • Separate out fact from opinion – acknowledge that you might be pulling some of the information “out of your butt” if you don’t have “substantive data” to back it up
    • Separate out data from conclusions – it’s easy to mistakenly mix the two together, always keep conclusions separate
    • Be aware of your “tone” – we often write with “tone” whether consciously or unconsciously, make sure that your inflection isn’t sending the wrong message (“Listen with the ears of your audience”)
    • Summarize, summarize, summarize – either start or end with your top “takeaways”, don’t let the audience draw their own conclusions without YOUR guidance
  4. Solicit AND embrace feedback (hopefully BEFORE OFFICIALLY Publishing OR Presenting)
    • Perception IS Truth – unless otherwise negotiated, this is always true!
    • You’re right, until shown that you’re wrong – be open to embrace new “truths”, but don’t dismiss your own thoughts without open, honest dialog about the merits of “the new truth”, then draw your own conclusions
    • Acknowledge the inputs – accept them as new truths, reject them with an explanation, modify them and make them yours, but don’t ignore them! No-one likes to be asked for their opinion if it’s not “listened to”

If you’re interested in a deeper dive into this topic, please send me your comments and I will work-up another posting or two on the specific items that you’re most interested in.

© 2010 John C. Rea and nothingbutwolves.wordpress.com

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