Communication is by far one of the most valuable skills in any professional’s toolkit. Whether you’re just starting your career or you’re a seasoned vet, being an effective communicator at work is key to your success.
I believe there are three communication principles that will help anyone become a more effective and influential communicator in the workplace:
1. Strive for clarity
Identifying your key messages—the main ideas you want to embed in your audience’s mind—is an important part of communicating clearly. Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Before you communicate, write down your central idea. What are the key messages you want your audience to hear and understand?
- Spend time thinking about your audience and the knowledge they may or may not have about the content you’ll be sharing. When in doubt, be prepared to provide context and a quick recap to bridge any knowledge gaps.
- As you write out your key points, avoid jargon and other language that could confuse your audience or distract them from your central idea. Technical language or high levels of detail may seem important to you, but they can be a barrier to audience engagement.
Developing key messages before you communicate will help you focus in on what you want to say and deliver your content with clarity.
2. Keep it concise
Aim for short, direct sentences. Saying less forces you to focus, and the more focused you are, the higher your chances of getting your message across. Be sure to define exactly what you want people to understand and what, if anything, you’re asking them to do.
Saying less has another advantage. Whether you’re communicating by email, over the phone, or in person, saying too much can hurt your efforts. Try these tips for concise communication:
- Take out the filler. Write down your message and then review it for conciseness. Is every bit needed to get your point across or have unnecessary words snuck in? In particular, watch for overuse of filler words like “very” and “really.”
- Keep it simple. Close thesaurus.com. Fancy words will only confuse your audience—or worse, alienate them. Stick to language that is familiar and accessible.
- Formatting is your friend. The longer the update, the more likely it is that important details will be lost. Use formatting in written communication (such as bullet points, headings, or bold emphasis) to highlight vital information. I like to bold important dates, calls to action, and key decisions so it’s nearly impossible to miss them.
3. Be consistent
Consistency in communication usually means two things: repetition and frequency.
- Don’t be afraid to repeat your key messages—it’s hard for people to miss a point when they’ve seen or heard it multiple times.
- Make sure you communicate on a regular basis. Depending on the project or situation, this may involve creating a set communication schedule to provide updates. Or, it can simply mean being proactive and responsive in terms of how you communicate by email, over the phone, or in meetings.
Keep these three principles in mind, and you’ll be able to effectively convey your ideas, connect with your audience, and communicate with confidence.
Written by Corinne Impey and originally published to CPABC’s Industry Update.