Monday, 31 August 2015

Business Communications: 3 ‘Rules’ For Effectiveness

As professionals, we need to ‘stand out’ to remain competitive – and thus relevant - in our careers.

No one is excluded from this requirement: From the newly appointed CEO, to the enthusiastic greenhorn, we constantly seek ways to update our skills, increase our knowledge and strengthen our portfolios.

And globalisation - the interplay of international trade, transfer of technology, and socio-cultural exchanges in our daily lives - is to blame for this mad rush for professional development. This has become evident as careers become increasingly fluid and competition becomes rife.

Although there may be differing opinions about the benefits of, or woes from this powerful force, one constant is indisputable: the inevitability of change. People, processes, ideas, ‘best practices’, employment trends; they all change.

Consequently, the way we communicate and how we do so in business circles have also evolved. Gone are the days where content could only be delivered by faxes, letters, emails and the press. Rapid advances in technology have resulted in various options from which to choose: communicating by video calls/online meetings, (Skype, GoToMeeting etc.); using business communication tools; and connecting via social media apps, (YouTube, Periscope, Vine, etc.). We have also become creative with our communications and at our disposal are different formats for disseminating information: e-books, images, videos, blog articles, infographics, podcasts etc.

Nonetheless, we can distinguish ourselves from the pack of educated, competent professionals and remain relevant in our careers.

Here's the simple, but often underestimated advice:

Demonstrate communication skills which ensure that ideas/initiatives/innovations are presented in ways that generate trust and lead to acceptance and action.

Since communication is only effective when it achieves a goal, three 'rules' of communication should be noted for best results:

1) Tailoring communications for the audience

Whatever the content being delivered, whether it is a speech, presentation, proposal or report, the first point to consider is the audience. Are its members university-educated or high school certificate holders? Do they engage more with visual content or do they prefer a text-audio combination? Know beforehand what is likely to resonate with them and then tailor your communications to suit the group's preferences.

For example, the language and style you will use when giving a seminar to a group of PhD holders will differ significantly from how you will address a group of rank and file employees. Using the appropriate language and format will lead to acceptance of your content.  

2) Prioritising brevity, simplicity and clarity

“If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself”.

- Albert Einstein. 

Yes, your audience knows you have a lot of 'important' information to share, and that you must acknowledge the 'village' that helped you achieve X,Y,Z but please get to the point! Be brief. If people want more details, tell them how to get them. The more you waffle on, the quicker they tune off. Don't expect anything meaningful to be achieved in this situation. 

You also need to present your information in simple terms - without the jargon and ambiguity - so that your recipients understand your message. You don't need to use 'big' or redundant words to appear clever. Take a cue from Einstein’s quote about simplicity. 

Finally, tell them what you want them to do at the end of your delivery. When your call-to-action is clear, assumptions and conjectures are eliminated. Because they know what is expected of them, they will be empowered to support your goals.  

3) Providing timely and factual feedback

Let's assume here that feedback is virtually guaranteed when everything is on track.

But what happens when 'all hell breaks loose'?

It doesn't matter if the unpleasant situation was a result of your actions, lack thereof, or was beyond your control; you will need to provide feedback. But the feedback should be timely and factual, (meaning no delayed recaps or speculations), in order to be effective. 

Whilst no one wants to be the bearer of bad news, the sooner the true state of affairs is known, the quicker the resources - natural, human, technological, etc. - could be mobilised to tackle the problem. Timely and factual feedback is crucial in a crisis and when merged in this blog's six-component communications strategy, it can make a difference between how the crisis is 'contained' and how it escalates to disastrous proportions.  


So  as  we  strive  to become  more competitive in our fields, let's become better communicators.

Due to the availability of numerous communications tools and different types of content to inspire, captivate, motivate or persuade, we will be spoilt for choice.

Still, by using the three 'rules' of business communication listed above, we'll be able to cut through the 'noise' in our fast-paced environment and get the business results we seek.

As a bonus, to help C-suite executives, the ultra-short but useful embedded presentation below recaps:


Now it's your turn. What other 'rules' have been effective in your business communication?
Kindly post your comments below, anonymously if you prefer.

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Need help with crafting your business content?  

Hire me for a writing assignment, some consulting work and/or coaching sessions in communications.  

Contact me by: 

A) Sending a direct email to:

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N.B-  First image courtesy of Jesadaphorn; via Embedded tweet courtesy of author’s Twitter account. Second image courtesy of Hywards; via Third and fourth images courtesy of Stuart Miles; via Last image courtesy of Jscreationzs; via The embedded presentation is author's work.