It is generally acknowledged that successful speakers and writers have a way of reaching their audience that makes them successful, or better than others who would claim to be good communicators.
After all, what is the secret of being a good communicator? It’s getting your message across to an audience in a convincing and/or interesting and/or memorable and/or enjoyable way.
- Did the audience feel it was useful and enjoyable to hear or read you?
- Did the audience feel their time listening to you or reading you was well spent?
- Will the audience want to come back to you?
First of all, what exactly do we mean by audience?
I am not speaking here (necessarily) about a very large group of people in a theatre or hall. The audience I am referring to here means any person or group who is listening to or reading you. So your audience can be just 1 person. Imagine of you have to go in and convince your boss about a new project that you want to get under way. That is your audience in this particular instance. Or you may be speaking to a group of parents about a rather costly school trip that you know will have wonderful educational advantages if it gets approval. Or you might be speaking at a City Council meeting about a new proposal that you know many residents are against. All of these instances would place in front of you a very different ‘audience’. The message you craft to convince your audience would have to be carefully thought out and aimed at each different audience in a different way in order to achieve your purpose.
Let us consider each of the above cases, and let us focus on oral, face-to-face communication, even though much of what I say about the above would also apply to written communication.
How to convince your boss
So, in the first instance, you need to convince your boss that what you are proposing is something that is good for the company or good for her/ his particular department or section. It is generally true that we are all motivated by things that will be advantageous for us. So, whatever scheme you put to your boss has to convince him/her of the advantages for them. You probably know whether there is money in the Department’s budget (or you get in before the annual budget is set!) and you might be able to suggest that this project would be very much value for money. Part of your preparation would also be to pre-empt any questions or objections that he/she will have so that you have a reasonably prepared explanation that will convince them. Your reasons should appear logical, well-reasoned and thought out, and your proposal should look well-prepared. This is likely, then, to convince your boss.
Pitching your idea to parents
The next example is a group of parents. Now although the trip you propose may be a little costly, you must remember that above all, parents will want to be reassured about absolute safety of their children. You should first indicate to parents how children will be supervised and how their safety will be assured. Parents will also want to know about the educational value of the excursion and whether what children learn could not be done just as easily in class. So here again, you must prepare yourself for the sorts of questions parents will likely raise. You must have all your costs clearly spelled out and you should have some examples for the parents of the sorts of learning activities children will be engaged in and how much more valuable such experiences will be.
Pitching in politics
The third example will be perhaps more difficult since politics, even at the small local level, is always hard work and you will not be able to win over everyone: the very best you can hope for is to convince a majority, but certainly not everyone present. Your audience of councillors and ratepayers will all have personal or ‘party’ agendas, and since, let’s face it, politics with a small ‘p’ can be just as dirty as politics with a big ‘P’ your message and your motivations need to be very clearly spelt out. You need to expect tricky questions and you need to have well-reasoned counter-arguments ready. You should be able to support your ideas with facts and relevant evidence. The major advice here then, as with the other examples, is to be truly well-prepared
So my message for successful communication is to pay attention to
- purpose and
What is your purpose?
- What do you hope to achieve?
- What is your goal?
Who is your audience?
- What do you know about them?
- What sort of message will convince them to listen to your ideas?
And, finally – be prepared, be prepared, be prepared!