real/brilliant: How To Be A Better Communicator (Memos, Blogs, Presentations)

by Trish

Most businesses I talk to want to know one thing. How do I communicate? They can talk off the cuff (better than I can), but when it comes time to make a presentation, to write a memo, or to keep their business blog going, they feel blocked. Frequently, I come alongside and help produce the blog post, and once they realize they were making it harder than it has to be, they tell me they are able to confidently produce a better memo or a better PowerPoint presentation. It’s all in the approach.

Don’t just sit down and write stuff cold.
The biggest mistake I see business owners making is that they put off the writing until the very last minute. Then when they sit down to write, they feel pressure and frequently don’t know what they need to in order to write
well. I take a three-pronged approach: thinking, researching, writing. And of course each prong has it’s own subsections, but for now, we’ll just focus on the three big divisions.

Think about what you are trying to accomplish
To write well, you must think first, write later. Outline the major points you know you must cover in your piece on a piece of scrap paper. Now just stop, ignore the phone, email, everything around you and just think through these points. Let your brain pick them up as pebbles and let your thoughts turn them over and over for a bit. It may sound stupid, but it works and it calms you down. You’re thinking through all the angles when you do this. It’s not dumb, it’s wise.

Research what you’re not sure about
I often Google dates, spellings, facts, anything I “think” I remember, but would love to confirm. This is what research is. Backing up your previous conclusions. So take time to do it, remembering that if you must source
something, now is the time.

Your first draft is just that: a start
You don’t have to write everything in one draft, remember. Your first attempt can be paper and pen or it can be on a computer, but don’t make this task difficult. Consider it as a progression from your main points. Just
slide those points in and fill in around ’em. It’s more like a puzzle than a Picasso. Trust me.

Don’t overcomplicate the task of writing.
Writing is not hard, it’s approaching the writing that’s hard. It’s attempting to slow yourself down long enough to actually think about what you’re trying to say. Those things are hard. If you allow yourself to do them, writing
will actually be easier than you expected. You’re just writing a memo, a blog post, not a novel. Lower your expectations.

Persuasion does not mean coming on strong
Persuasion actually is being well-researched and well-thought out. If you must persuade, figure out your angle. Coming on directly might not be the best choice.

Informing about a topic can be done with a simple bulleted structure
A simple bulleted list or A,B,C outline can be the best way to inform people about a new policy or sales technique. Don’t overcomplicate it with other techniques.

Explaining can use a story, but don’t moralize
A lot of corporate communications people understand the power of story. The problem with a lot of story is that they tend to moralize. Folks would prefer to come up with their own morals, so resist the urge.

Don’t assume one bad memo ruined it forever.
Above all, the art of communicating takes time and one bad experience doesn’t get you off the hook. You can get better. Just remember that everyone had to learn it at some point. Better now than never for you.

A good memo can fix whatever a bad memo created
A well-thought out memo can repair anything that broke with the previous memo. Don’t worry. You’re not failing after one bad memo. First time you’ll get a pass. Second time, a look. Third time, someone may have to make a change.

A good idea makes writing a simple extension of your thought process
If you’ve got a good idea (after your thinking session), sometimes the writing just flows. Not sure? Try it.

Sometimes you might need a hand; hire a writer
Nothing wrong with it. It might be temporary or long-term; it depends on your needs as a business.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Lori February 12, 2009 at 6:16 pm

Thanks for the gentle reminder that my freshman music theory teacher once drilled into my head. She told me that “writing is re-writing.” I imagine that writing in a business forum requires even more re-writing than in the creative world since it requires no-nonsense objectivity.

admin February 12, 2009 at 7:02 pm

Hi, Lori, all writing is just thinking and re-writing, yep. The business arena makes that much harder as I’ve seen from my embattled corporate clients. I’m here to say, it can be done!

Thanks for the comment!

Trish

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