Your success in most professional or personal situations will relate strongly to your ability to communicate with others. You could be a manager giving directions or a team member receiving them. Often we will shift between these roles depending on the situation. One thing that is certain though, is that to succeed you need to be able to clearly communicate and receive information. Without being sensationalist, effective communication is simply one of the most important workplace skills.
The key for communicating in any situation is to know your audience. This is particularly important for effective communication in the workplace. If you know your audience, you can tailor your message to be one that they are able to receive more easily.
Workplace communication is really just a simple three step process.
1) Identify your audience. Who are they? What do they need to know? How do they expect to receive the information?
2) Tailor your content for the audience. Senior executives will expect receive a different level of information from factory workers. Effective communication is about transferring the information that your audience desires. It is also just as importantly about not communicating things that they don’t.
3) Communicate in the way that they are comfortable with. Large groups may need reference material such as a structured presentation or handouts. People that are not familiar with the content may require more background or history. Acronyms and technical jargon should be reserved for groups that understand them.
Communication is all about the transfer of information. If you are trying to communicate a message, it is important that your audience is able to receive it.
Who are you communicating with?
The important first step in effective communication in the workplace is to know who you are communicating with. This is critical because it allows you to ensure that your message is the right one for them.
It is also often not something that is considered. This is the key trait of a great communicator. It is the difference between someone seeking to tell their story and someone seeking to ensure that it is heard. We all know things. We all have information that others don’t. What we don’t all possess is the ability to communicate that knowledge.
Identifying your audience is about really seeking to understand who they are and what information they need. Some things for consideration may be:
- Their level of experience and knowledge
- What information can you assume they already know?
- What are their motivations in this communication (what is in this for them)?
- How will they best receive the information?
What do they want to know?
Tailoring your content is important as it allows for the more clear communication of the important ideas. It allows your audience to receive the most important information without the confusing supporting stuff.
This means that they will be more likely to hear the message that you are trying to communicate. You should try to remove anything that doesn’t support the message or information presented. Make it as easy for your audience as possible. They will then be able to hear your real message more easily.
They will also be more likely to want to hear your message if they feel that it is something that is intended just for them.
How do they want to hear it?
There are many ways to communicate information in a workplace environment. The most appropriate will depend on your audience.
How many people are you communicating with? Small groups may feel more comfortable asking questions to clarify. Large groups may have issues hearing everything that you say.
How do they expect to receive the information? Communication is about the receiver. If they have never sat in a meeting with more than 5 people before, they may find that intimidating. Even worse they may come in with expectations that it will be a waste of their time and not listen.
Unless they ask for it, a senior executive is unlikely to want a 30 minute presentation on the fine details. They are more likely to just expect the highlights and know where to find the detail if they need it.
Those that deal with a technical activity on a daily basis may be comfortable with the related jargon. People that don’t though may get lost in a sea of acronyms. There is no quicker way to lose your audience than to start using a bunch of terms that they don’t understand.
Effective communication in the workplace is about transferring information from someone that knows it to those that need to.
When you are communicating remember that you already know the information. It is unlikely that you are supplying information to increase your own knowledge. To communicate in the most effective way, it is crucial that you speak to your audience in the way that is best for them.
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