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11 'rules' of communication that are wrong (Part 1)

Tags: Presentations | Meetings | Impact | Influencing

10th July

Here are eleven 'rules' about communication that people seem to think they have to follow.

They don't.

Because eleven’s too many for one week, there are six here, and the other five next week. Here are this week's…

#1: Communication is all about your message

No it isn't.

It's all about what people do/think differently AFTER hearing it. After all, a great message that changes nothing… well, it changes nothing.

So, with communication, it's not what you say that counts. It's what you cause to happen after you’ve said it.

#2: When creating communications, start at the beginning

No. That's wrong too.

You should start at the end, with your Call To Action.

This sounds odd. But it's true.

Because, since the only aim of communication is to cause things, the first step of your prep should be to identify what you’re looking to cause!

This becomes your Call To Action. And this will probably go at the end of your communication.

The rest of your prep then focuses on what you should say, to maximise the chance of them doing this Call To Action.

#3: You have to reply to an email with an email

No you don't.

But most people do.

And that just results in lengthy games of Email Tennis.

Instead, vary the channel you use.

So, if someone sends you an email, consider phoning them, to discuss what they sent.

If you feel you need to put this discussion in writing, you can then send a follow-up email “confirming what we just agreed…"

#4: When preparing presentations, slides are the most important thing

No they aren't.

And yet most people start their prep by going straight to the slides.

Instead, after you have identified your Call To Action (see #2 above), the next thing to prepare are the questions you'll ask. In other words, how will you get your audience speaking? Master this, and your presentation will become a two-way peer-to-peer dialogue, rather than a slide-heavy one-way monologue by you.

Remember: slides mean you talk at; questions mean you talk with.

#5: Titles are unimportant

I've no idea why people think this.

But they do.

I mean, be honest: how often do you spend any more than 2-3 seconds thinking about the titles/first lines of your conversations, emails, meetings, presentations and documents?

But your start is your first impression. Give it a boring title, and people will pre-judge your entire communication is boring.

#6: Readers love the Thud Factor

For some reason, when people are writing important documents, they often think they need to nail the Thud Factor. In other words, when the reader drops it on the table, it makes a massive THUD – because of all the work you’ve put into it.

But this is just not right.

Readers would generally prefer to read fewer words than lots of words.

And the best way to know exactly what content they want?

Ask them.

In other words, before you put pen to paper, agree with them the headings, format and approximate length. That way, you're giving them exactly what they want first time.

More likely to work. More likely to be short.

Action Point

Quickly skim-read these tips again. Which can you implement straightaway, to be more effective every time you communicate?

And there’s five more coming next week…