You are surely familiar with the saying, “practice makes perfect.” Let’s add one more important p-word when it comes to business communication: preparation.
The way you prepare before writing any type of business communication —whether it’s an email or an entire speech — can really make a difference in the final outcome. There are four essential elements of business communication preparation:
Each element is critical. Here’s how to implement them in your business communication and never be caught unprepared.
This article is expanding upon my video, “4 Steps to Prep.” Check it out here!
Our purpose in business communication is to be persuasive and drive people to action. To have that influence, you must truly understand your audience so you can view your points through their eyes. The people you are talking to must be your first consideration as you prepare.
Look at things from their perspective and where they are coming from. Understand your audience from a demographic and a psychographic point of view. Know who they are, their role in the organization, and their knowledge of you and your message. Take time to dig in and learn the experiences that may cause them to interpret what you’re saying in a particular way. This will help you understand what could solidify their support or get them to change their mind.
Solid preparation also includes exploring power dynamics. Who makes decisions? Who will focus on your financial points? How will their role be impacted by your message or solution? Ask, how will each person’s experience with the topic affect how they relate to what you’re saying. Keep your answers in mind and you’ll read the room with more confidence, becoming more persuasive to your audience.
Once you’ve tuned into audience dynamics, you need to think about the “why” behind your interaction. What is their point of view going into the conversation, and what would you like it to be after you’re finished?
Sure, your goal is to get the audience to take your advice, but do you need to validate current thinking, change minds, raise slight doubt, and buy time for the next step? Persuasion takes many forms and since we’re all human, they tend to be emotionally driven.
You might foster hope for a better outcome or play on the fear of an outcome that will occur if they do not follow your advice. Or, perhaps you just want to inspire the curiosity that will keep them coming back to you to answer more questions. Whatever the case, you should have an idea of what you can do to influence your audience and get yourself heard.
You will hear this referred to as moving your audience from where you encounter them, their “Point A,” to where you want them by the time you finish your presentation, a new “Point B.” It’s not what you want them to DO–that’s next–it’s how you want them to FEEL and where you want to have moved them psychologically by your conclusion.
Once you have influenced your audience and moved them intellectually, go for the close. With a solid call to action for your audience, you show them the end of their journey (at least this part of it) by telling them what you want them to do next.
Remember how your goals were based on the advice you wanted the audience to take? Here you can identify the go-dos you want to inspire and have them as a part of your presentation or piece of writing.
So what’s the best moment to assert your go-do? Early in my career, one of my best managers taught me a very important lesson. He said, “Rutberg, don’t sell past the close.” This is great advice and can be a helpful way to think about the best timing for your recommendation. It’s also important to avoid making people wait. Your go-dos should be crystal clear right up front.
The final critical element of your preparation is taking a long look at you. Every presentation, email, and even conversation is part of an ongoing dialogue, one in which you’re building your professional reputation and the relationships that support it. Nurture relationships over time, building your reputation through a consistent presentation of your style, your benefits, and your ❤️ for your work and your community–be they colleagues or clients.
Along with reputation comes expectations that you set for your audience when they consume your communication. So, who is your audience? It’s vital to keep this in mind to come off as the clear, confident expert that you really are. Get the reputation for delivering insight, not just information, and work on making even fine details pop.
This applies to you, your team inside your company, and the company itself. When it’s you in front of the room, your audience sees you as representing your organization and builds their long-term impression based on your individual actions.
Getting it right
My bottom line for any business communication and how to get what you want out of the experience is to be mindful to influence your audience and inspire the desired go-dos. Mindful attention to each of these steps–steps that most of us take instinctively but generally subconsciously will raise them to the level of conscious consideration.
This doesn’t mean you have to take hours to address these questions.I have worked with clients who take 5-10 minutes to center themselves around Audience-Goal-GoDo-You, others who write down a few paragraphs on each, and still others who launch hours of research on their audience before they decide their next step. The surest way to get the win you want is to step back, ask yourself these questions, and decide the proper amount of investment based on the stakes you’re playing for in the communication you’re planning.
Advocating to launch a plan your team has been working on for months after a final review should take less planning and foresight than making a new ask for a million-dollar investment. Prepare accordingly.
Could you or your team benefit from a business communications course or just a little bit of extra support while preparing for a big presentation or important piece? 3C Communications can help! Reach out to us today for a consultation and to learn more about the ways we can teach you and your team how to be better business communicators.