Remember the children’s storybook Goldilocks and the Three Bears?
Goldilocks went for a walk in the forest and found a cabin. Her curiosity got the best of her, so she entered and saw three fresh bowls of porridge. She sampled the first but it was too hot to eat; the second one was too cold, and the last porridge was just right, so she hungrily and happily gobbled it up.
That’s exactly what happens with communication.
Think about a time when you’ve been at a meeting, and someone asks you a complex technical question. What do you do?
Often, we provide too much information and overwhelm an audience with details or data, or provide too little, leaving out the context and meaning. Either way, the result is that people start to tune you out instead of gobbling it up.
So, what is “just right” when it comes to communication?
As a trainer and executive coach, I help people get to “just right” with their communication skills. Here are techniques and models to help you communicate with greater impact. These can be applied when communicating one-on-one, in meetings, speaking to larger groups and virtually.
Know your PAL to Target Your Message
Start with a specific Purpose. What do you need to communicate? What do you want the audience to know, feel or do as a result? Then, look at your Audience members — Who are they? What is their knowledge level and attitude about the topic? What do they care about? The “L” in PAL is for Logistics. How are you communicating the message? Is it face to face or virtual? What is the size of your group? How much time do you have? Is this a quick pitch or a formal presentation?
Regardless of the communication context (whether it’s a job interview, meeting or presentation), being clear about your purpose, audience and logistics will help you tailor and target your message.
Communication frameworks help us to be more clear and concise from our feet or seat. Here are two models I regularly teach – PREP and CAR.
When asked for your point of view during a meeting, you need to be able to explain your position clearly and concisely. The PREP model will help:
1) State your Position (or viewpoint) about the subject you’re discussing.
2) Provide a Reason for what you believe.
3) Give an Example/Explanation of what you are referring to.
4) Restate your Position to bring it all together and include a call to action.
Another communication tool is the CAR model, which is useful for job interviews and project updates.
1) Describe the Challenge
2) Explain the Actions you took.
3) Share the Results of those actions.
The CAR model is useful to clearly and concisely organize your message related to an accomplishment, by providing the context, followed by the action, and ending with the positive result of your action
Make Your Message “Sticky”
Now that you have mastered being clear and concise, it’s time to add being compelling. This is the element of communication that keeps your listener interested and engaged in your message. So, how can you be more compelling?
Using descriptive language through analogies, metaphors and stories will make your message more sticky and bring it to life.
Let’s take a deeper dive into analogies. They are a great way to bridge the gap between what your listener knows, and a new concept you would like to introduce. They take your audience from confusion to clarity.
A friend of mine runs a lab on cancer research at The University of Pennsylvania. He used an amazing analogy during a presentation that brought his work to life and helped his audience better understand his research:
“Cancer cells are like the Death Star in Star Wars. They have the power to destroy all of the planets in the universe, but they also have an Achilles heel, a little port that you can shoot your laser into and destroy it. Immune cells are like TIE (airplane) fighters, they fly around the Death Star trying to shoot their lasers into that little port, and if they’re successful, boom!”
Wow. That vivid analogy is attention-grabbing, even if you have never seen Star Wars!
To make your communication “just right,” use these specific techniques and frameworks. You will be able to create and deliver coherent and compelling messages in any situation – gaining buy-in for your ideas, building support for your project, and moving others to action.
Amy Glass is executive vice president at BRODY Professional Development and the co-author of the book Leadership Presence: The Influential Intangible. Email Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on managing communications, join us at the 45th LTEN Annual Conference. Amy will be delivering a workshop on Clear, Concise & Compelling Communication during the upcoming LTEN Annual Conference, on June 14 at 4:15 pm.