What is Communication?
Within the last decade, the way we communicate has changed considerably. From smartphones, social media, digital transformation and global travel. What does this mean and what is effective communication? Communication is about exchanging and imparting information and knowledge. It includes verbal and non-verbal communication. For example, through speech, sign language, symbols, written, digital and/or other mediums.
Most importantly, we not only communicate in different ways, but we also understand, digest and interpret what we hear, read, see (and feel) in different ways. For example, how actively do you listen? Are you present or already thinking about what you want to say or do next? Effective communication isn’t just about what or how you communicate to others. It’s also about how the information is received, interpreted, digested and even, remembered.
During communication, we also have different learning preferences and styles. Not only that, but this can vary according to the information format, time, frequency, volume etc. For example, a more visual person absorbs information more effectively through symbols, images, graphs, tables etc. In contrast, a more logical person needs detailed steps or a process to absorb information. Therefore, for effective communication, it’s important to consider your audience as much as the communication channels you use.
7 Individual Learning Styles + Combination
- Visual (spatial) – Pictures, images, symbols, spatial understanding
- Aural (auditory-musical) – Sound and music
- Verbal (linguistic): Words, both in speech and writing
- Physical (kinaesthetic): Body, hands and sense of touch
- Logical (mathematical): Logic, reasoning and systems
- Social (interpersonal): Learn in groups or with other people
- Solitary (intrapersonal): Alone or use self-study
With the 7 different learning styles in mind, it’s important to think about what communication method(s) you use. Try to use a combination of styles to facilitate effective communication. Most importantly, so your communication and message meets the needs of everyone in your target audience.
Of course, communication is a two-way process. Whilst the method(s) and means of communication are important, it’s also up to the receiver to ask timely questions. Certainly, to check understanding if there’s any ambiguity. In addition, to obtain more detail or if their learning style hasn’t been met.
No communication or person is infallible, but by following some general best practice and effective communication principles, your audience is more likely to decode your message effectively.
Tips whilst Planning & Preparing a Communication
- Think about your target audience; their preferred learning style(s) and preferred communication methods
- Incorporate a mixture of different communication methods/mediums into your communication plan. For instance, consider using verbal and non-verbal forms to achieve effective communication
- Prepare and organise your communication in a way that’s easy and quick to interpret and understand
- Think about whether it’s clear, logical, simple and uses language that everyone understands
Effective Business Writing
Writing an effective communication can be difficult. You’ll want it to be clear, concise and logical for readability and understanding. Read this Forbes article on the 5Cs for Effective Communication. Most importantly, the 5Cs will also increase the chances of your message being read.
Certainly, if you need to communicate something that you know may not be received well. You’ll also want to mitigate misunderstandings and manage expectations. It’s important to take your time. In addition, before sending/publishing, make sure you review and check emails, letter and other digital/social media message.
Business Coaching Tips for Writing Effective Communications
- Consider what knowledge your audience has about the content you want/need to include
- Think about what your audience really needs to know and how much detail is expected. Whilst it may be clear to you, will others understand and interpret the message in the same way?
- Consider how the audience will use the information and any attachments, if applicable
- Think about how you can compose your message in a way that supports and meets the learning and communication styles of multiple audiences. g. complexity of language, tone, style and cultural differences etc.
- Keep in mind that your writing leads to action; what do you want your audience to know after reading? In addition, what do you want them to do? For example, are you advocating, recommending, trying to persuade, informing, requesting or presenting/concluding some findings?
Tips for Effective Communication – Writing Emails
Most importantly, remember to include a subject line. This is one of the first things your recipient(s) will see/read (along with your name etc.)
- Write a compelling and concise subject line, which clearly conveys what it’s about
- Include the ‘action’ you want the reader to take. For example, you could start the subject with “Action: Please provide feedback by DD-MM”
- Keep in mind, many readers delete emails based on the subject line
Write nothing in an email that you wouldn’t want someone else to see/read. Email tends to be the legal property of the company, so watch your tone. Do not write or say anything that could easily cause offense, be discriminatory or abrupt. Know your Company’s policies and procedures for effective communication.
Use the reader’s logic and at the beginning of your email, position your message. Certainly, most readers skim read and don’t necessarily read the entire email.
- Write from the top down and keep it brief
- Follow parallel structure, i.e. begin each line with the same type of speech
- Limit sentence length to 15-20 words maximum
- Use simple, declarative sentences and make only one point per paragraph
- Aim to keep each paragraph no more than 5 lines
- Leave a line between each paragraph for reader ease and visual effectiveness
- Avoid using all capitals unless it’s for a heading. For instance, do not SHOUT in your emails
Best Practice Before Sending Emails
Style, Attachments & Spelling/Grammar
- Utilise styles and graphics, but do so mindfully. For example, make use of dashes and numbers to break up text. Use headings to help readers see organisation and avoid fancy fonts and symbols
- Include a consistent email signature, which follows company policy and best practice
- Organise and include attachments in file formats that you know the receiver can open, read and easily use (i.e. generally accepted as common usage)
- Check your email for errors before sending and follow convention (set up automatic spelling and grammar checking)
- Manage replies and ongoing correspondence carefully. For example, put replies in context and retain the previous message history, if appropriate to do so
- Include a short summary, when forwarding an email to someone else to save the reader time in understanding what and why the email has been forwarded to them. For example, write a mini recap first
Tips for Clarity
There are several tips you can consider to ensure clarity. For example, use of language, the structure and punctuation. Certainly, this will also vary according to the type of message or document you’re writing.
- Keep it short (in the interests of time and workload)
- Be clear and succinct, since sentence length can greatly affect comprehension
- Keep language simple and impress readers with your analysis, not your vocabulary
- Use everyday language, which is more commonly understood
- Avoid jargon or abbreviations, which others may not understand
- Use an active voice (where possible), since this creates more energy
- Avoid stock phrases or replace them with plain English. This avoids your message coming across as garbled and/or vague. For example, instead of writing ‘at a later date’, write ‘later’. In addition, ‘in light of’, try ‘because or since’
Tips for Effective Communication – Presentation/PowerPoint Slides
In conjunction with the tips and information above, follow these tips:
- Keep to a consistent company template/standard
- Use headlines on each slide/flip chart sheet to communicate a message that directly relates to the slide/sheet
- Limit each slide/sheet to x1 idea and limit text for ease of reading and absorption
- Keep all bullets to a parallel structure and use phrases, not sentences in most cases
- Relate sidebar (in the case of PowerPoint slides) comments to the main content of each slide
- Think carefully about your use of images, graphics, sounds and other animations
- Use consistent formats, styles, fonts etc. and do not write in capital letters
- Keep to a reasonable and digestible length
- Avoid PowerPoint decks that are in excess of x10 slides. Think about your audience, information overload and retention. What is it you’re trying to achieve, and will a lengthy slide deck achieve that?
Contact Maximum Solutions Consulting Ltd to arrange your business coaching session and become a more effective communicator. Visit the Business Coaching London page for details about business coaching services.