#1 - Clarify your communication purpose before preparing anything

How to get more decisions than questions

Sometimes the simplest fixes create the biggest difference.

Clarifying the purpose of your communication does just that.

Many, if not most, of my clients dive into preparing their communication right from the minute they know they need to prepare an email, paper, or deck.

They like to think and write at the same time, which I understand completely: so do I. It can be a useful way to brainstorm, so long as we are clear on where 'thinking writing' does – and does not – lead us.

It leads us to be clear about our message at the end of our ramblings. At this point we are clear about our message, but that clarity is largely – if not totally – absent for our audience.

Our audience will have either taken a mental detour or switched off well before the end.

This problem is even more acute when we do not have a highly specific understanding of why we are communicating to them in the first place.

Lack of clarity around what we want to achieve from each piece of communication leaves us vulnerable to creating a ‘nervous parade of knowledge’ or a ‘kitchen sink’ communication that includes every conceivable detail about a topic, so we can avoid being wrong.

Unfortunately, this guarantees we will be wrong: We won’t put a clear idea forward. Our audience won’t know what we are saying. And if we are asking for something, all we will get is a long list of questions.

So, here is one thing to do to stop confusing your own audiences: Clarify your communication purpose before preparing anything

One of my favourite clients, an accountant called Tracey, explained the difference that thinking carefully about her purpose made for her.

Tracey wrote tons of short emails. They would typically be simple: asking for information so she could move a line item from one client account to another, or similar.

However, she found that she spent an awful lot of her time chasing the partners in her firm to get answers to what she thought were super simple questions.

This all changed when she focused on her purpose.

Here’s what she did:

Before she began preparing her email she asked herself a quick question: What do I want this particular audience to know, think or do as a result of this communication?

Once she was clear on that she was able to get to the point much more quickly in her emails, and she found that some people would reply, almost instantly.

The amount of time she spent chasing them radically shifted and she enjoyed her job inordinately more.

The difference here is in the twist: She wasn’t asking ‘what do I want from this communication?' but rather, ‘what do I want my audience to know, think or do as a result of this specific piece of communication?'

This sentence seems simple – and on the surface it is. But I encourage you to dig deeply to get it right. 

I find it often takes a few ‘goes’ at getting clarity around the purpose, and that the first thing my clients suggest they want to achieve really isn’t what they need at all. Keep asking yourself 'Why do I need to do that?' ... 'Is that what I really need to achieve' until it clicks.

In the meantime, download today’s notes and course challenge below. They include some extra ideas for you, as well as a summary of the key thoughts from today's module.

Stay tuned!

PS There was a bonus for you inside the email I just sent you. Search for <Tip #1> inside your inbox to find it.

PPS You can access all six modules in this series at any time, simply click here.

This short, free course is prepared by Davina Stanley, who has spent more than 20 years helping technical experts communicate better. She began this work when she joined McKinsey & Company's Hong Kong office as a communication specialist. Having lived and worked in Hong Kong, New York, Tokyo and Melbourne Australia, she is now loving living in Sydney. 
Davina offers face to face and online skill building programs for technical experts who need greater cut through in their communication. 
Her signature program is the powerful Clarity First Group Coaching Program. Click here to learn more

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