The channels that business leaders use to communicate have never been greater: emails, speeches, pitches, video, social media, blogs, podcasts, newsletters, even traditional PR. Because of their multiple formats, becoming good at business communication can seem much more difficult than it needs to be.
Regardless of the channel a leader uses for business communications, It pays to know these three best practices.
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- Be succinct
The more succinct a communication is, the more likely it is that recipients will respond. A good rule of thumb for speeches, for example, is 20 minutes. Why? Because the average attention span for good focus is about 20 minutes. An hour-long speech is going to have people mentally reviewing their to-do lists for the last 40 minutes of it.
Emails work the same. Twenty-six percent of workers think emails drain productivity, often because they’re too long. Make sure that the email subject and purpose can be understood at a quick scan. Of course, put the most important information at the top; many people read just the first line or so and then move on. In addition, many people use their mobile devices to access email outside of work — even less physical message space for them to read.
So what if one needs to communicate a lot of information in an email? In that case, it’s a good idea to provide succinctness along with comprehensive coverage. Never do just comprehensive coverage alone. Provide take-away information in bullet form: Provide a synopsis or context in prose, followed by key bullet points. Make one-word openers to each bullet and put that word in bold. Then, include additional information in an attachment.
Provide specific information tailored to your listeners.
- Be specific
The more specific information you use, the more likely is it to stick with the audience. For example, a speech about customers may include many facts about demographics, purchasing patterns, geography and more. In a text presentation, this may include tables with these categories broken down in granular detail.
Often, that all can become a generalized data haze.
Instead, compile a specific set of data that reflects the average customer to make it more memorable. For example, describe that the average customer is 32, lives in the Midwest, and purchases $2,230 of product per year. It’s much more memorable when it’s specific.
Coaching tip: For managers on the rise, the same when pitching to expand resources. These managers shouldn’t simply say their current team brought in more business. Again, specifics matter — including tying those specifics directly to the request. For example, the argument should include that the team brought in $50 million worth of business, exceeded expectations by 15%, and each team member individually contributed $250,000. The specificity allows executive management to see the contribution specifically – and start thinking about future contributions in very concrete terms.
- Know the audience
Always consider the recipients of communications. Tailor communications to what the audience’s purpose and interest. Most employees who receive emails about policies or results, for example, are interested in what impacts them. The take-aways should reflect that. Similarly, listeners to a speech are primarily interested in what they can use. The board of directors wants to know, among other things, business strategy.
Successful communications are no different than much else in life: The recipient wants to know “what’s in it for me.”