Three Tricks to Communicate Effectively
“We have a great idea!”
“The team has worked so hard to create this solution and achieve this result.”
“We have a problem and need extra funding to deliver this”.
How many times have we been in meetings with a similar ask or message, only to have the audience not understand it clearly or get no conclusion from the meeting. Talking, presenting, writing — communication is the only way we can let others know of our success, our concern or ask for help.
Product and analytics professionals need really good communication and storytelling skills. They need to communicate the requirements and make sure the developers understand it. They also need to inform stakeholders on statuses, the hard work the team is doing and simultaneously communicate the value, business impact of the work and how it will change life as we know it!
While there are many different methods and styles of communication, there are 3 things that I keep in mind and consciously practice. Fair warning: it is not always easy, but practicing it constantly does make it easier and things will start coming to you as second nature.
BLUF — Bottom Line Up front
In today’s world everybody is pressed for time. Everybody has fires to put out and emergencies to take care off. With that in mind, you want your audience to get maximum insight or value wherever it is they stop reading or paying attention to your talk, document or presentation. So BLUF!!
Another way to think about this is ‘3 minute conversations’. In about 3 mins, you want the person to know what the situation is, what your ask is, why you want it or better put - how will it benefit the company or stakeholders?
In the famous words of Winston Churchill -
‘If i had more time, I would have written a shorter letter’’
I agree, this takes time and practice, but you can master it. Start small. Everyday emails, conversations with colleagues or even family — be cognizant of this and you will seamlessly use BLUF approach!
Context and Clarity
When you begin your document, report, presentation or a meeting, it is important to give your audience a context. Remember, you have been working on it for days or weeks, but your audience is new to this. Things that are obvious to you are really not that obvious to everyone. I have been a victim of this multiple times. I have assumed that my audience knows what I am talking about because it is so obvious. But really, they have no idea and it is not obvious at all! Walk your audience through the journey. Even if you have had meetings with them before, provide context again. It could be in the meeting agenda, a footnote or hyperlink in your presentation or maybe in the appendix section of your document, but provide context. It will help get everybody on the same page and avoid misunderstandings.
There is a reason why you are sending out a communication — you have an ask or you need to inform the team about something and probably take subsequent action. Focus on clearly communicating your ask. Your stakeholders are not going to magically put 2 and 2 together and grant your wishes. You also do not want to leave room for miscommunication. Be clear in your ask.
Lastly, there will be 1 or 2 stakeholders who probably will be able to grant you your requirement or aid the team in taking the next action. Identify these stakeholders and keep them in mind as you prepare your communication strategy.
Keep it clean and relatable
Avoid information overload. I cannot stress enough on this. People are not mentally equipped to focus on multiple things at the same time. We are also not equipped to retain and recall information easily unless there is external help. With the above two conflicting statements in mind, prioritize the information you present.
While you do want your stakeholders to see and recognize all the cool work your team is doing, the minute you provide too much information, people are going to zone out. Spend time on identifying key information you want your audience to pay attention to and that is valuable to your story. Once you have that, help your audience to quickly get to it. Use appropriate visualizations techniques to focus attention on it and remove the extra stuff.
Also, don’t make them work to remember a piece of information you mentioned 2 slides ago. They will not remember it and make mental links to the information you are currently presenting and yes, it is not obvious. Reiterate the information that will help them easily tie things together.
Applying this consistently takes time and practice but as you stay mindful of these techniques, you will notice the improvements in your communication and storytelling. The same happened to me as well!
Stay tuned for more insights and experiences in my journey on all things Product and Analytics!