Communication: Are We Forgetting The Basics?

I had a chance to speak this week at the G42 Leadership Academy and thought I would use the opportunity to provide a back-to-basics look at communication. Whether it’s written, spoken, or a multi-media extravaganza, we all must improve the way we are communicating. Of course, we know how to communicate, we do it all day long… but are we effective communicators? Many times, I think we forget the basics of communication.

There is no such thing as over-communication. There are, however, people who talk too much and communicate too little

Start with the Basics.

Sender-Message-Receiver-Feedback. Know yourself: what are your strengths and weaknesses? If you are not a great public speaker but a brilliant videographer, use video to get your point across, not a lecture. Know the Message: if you don’t really know what you’re talking about, or really believe in your message, how do you expect others to receive it? Know the “Receiver”: know your target audience, their “care-factor”, their attentiveness, and their familiarity with the subject. Fight For Feedback: You can’t just say, “I’m open for any feedback,” you’ve got to pursue it, seek it out, and then be open to criticism too.

Make Sure You Plan Ahead

Yep. Basic. But often forgotten. All communication should follow this easy 3-step program: Introduction. Body. Conclusion. Frame the subject and introduce your “point”, then back it up with support and details, then wrap it all up nicely with clarity and emphasis. Draft, plan ahead, and use an outline.

Don’t skimp on the conclusion. I think the conclusion is the most overlooked part of communication. This is where you have an opportunity to leave your audience with something to remember, something to challenge them. Or this is where you re-iterate and make sure they’ve understood.

Photo of woman shouting at man

Make Sure You Practice

For written communication, this means write. Blogs, emails, letters, official memos, stories, just write. Then ask for feedback and get it edited by someone who is a better writer. For verbal communication, watch yourself in the mirror or a video. You’ll be amazed how much you gather on your little habits.

I’m a recovered hand-wringing, rocking, “ya know?” type of speaker.

By watching myself in videos, I was able to correct (or at least improve) some poor habits… I’ve worked on my hand gestures, I’ve noticed that I tend to rock when I stand in one place, and I might have overused the phrase “ya know?” in the past… ya know?

Be Clear

Speaking of filler phrases, please stop saying “like”, “um”, and “ya know?” Don’t be afraid of silence, or of pausing between your thoughts… We try to fill these natural gaps with noise, because we are somehow afraid of the silence. Stop, breathe, swallow, collect your thoughts, and continue…

Here’s another note concerning jargon: There might be a time and place (and audience) for jargon, but stay away from it. You’ll alienate those who aren’t “hip” with the jargon, or you’ll just sound stupid.

Spellcheck, Review and Improve

But even spellcheck doesn’t catch everything. Here’s a great video from Taylor Mali about some common proofreading mistakes.

And now… The Conclusion

Simply put, effective leaders are effective communicators. Tell the story, persuade your audience, or report the news–but it all starts with the basics. Know yourself. Know your audience. Clearly state your message. And then use feedback to improve.

Do you have a communication rule you live by? A nugget of wisdom? Please add it by leaving a comment below...