master communication
Skills for effective leadership: 5 keys to master effective communication

Your biggest communication challenge is to bridge the communication gap between the message that is sent and how it is received.

If you have an important message to deliver—a speech, a presentation, a crucial one-on-one—you prep for it, sometimes a lot. Professional communicators go through a process to prepare, and there’s no reason you can’t do the same. And not just for big, important events, but everyday communications, too. You can run through it in about 5 minutes, and if you make it a habit, you’ll see a big difference in your ability to communicate effectively.

Mastering effective communication means considering 5 keys: audience, message, messenger, timing and method.

Audiencewho and how
It’s so basic but so important: Understand who your audience is so you can connect more effectively with them. Is it a manager, a group of front-line employees, a team of professionals? Who they are affects how they might receive the message. Consider how you think they will respond, and plan accordingly. Note that they might be more open or closed to your message depending on how they perceive you, and the level of trust and respect that’s present (or not).

Messagewhat and why
What’s the message and why is it important (if you can’t articulate that to someone, what’s the point)? What do you want the audience to know? What impact do you want to make? Practice conveying those points so they are clear and concise. Rehearsal is the most underrated way to improve your messaging; if you can, go to someone you trust and ask them to hear it from the point of view of your audience. Learn from their feedback and use it to fine tune your message. (Remember, you are owning this communication, and that means making it the best it can be.)

Messengertailoring delivery
Typically, you’ll be the messenger, unless you decide another person is more appropriate. Whoever delivers the message should:

  • Tailor the delivery to the audience.
  • Be committed and communicate with conviction. If you waiver or hesitate, or don’t believe in the message, it won’t be effective.
  • Use both logic and emotion. Some people are logical thinkers and some emotional thinkers. You may know how your audience leans, but it’s still safer to use a mix—you don’t want to risk losing part of your audience.
  • Match your energy to the situation; positive and negative messages alike will feed off your energy.

Timingwhen and how long
If you can, deliver your message based on the best time from your audience’s perspective, not yours. Allow enough time to deliver the message and to answer questions—and make it a point to follow up in a day or so, in case people need time to process the information and have questions later on.

Tip: Not having questions or comments is often a sign, especially in larger groups, that people don’t feel comfortable raising their hand or giving honest feedback. It’s helpful for you to proactively anticipate and address questions people aren’t asking: “Now, you might be wondering what this means for…” “Others I’ve spoken to about this have asked…” Similarly, if there are questions that don’t yet have answers, own that: “We’re still figuring out x and y….if you have thoughts on that, please let me know.”

Methodmedium and setting
How will you communicate the message? Phone, email, face to face, text? Are you delivering the message individually or to a group? The right answer has more to do with effectiveness than efficiency. It might be easiest and fastest for you to send a mass email, but as we all know, interpretations can vary, and the back-and-forth can be cumbersome, especially when groups are involved. Choose the method that’s most likely to result in clear delivery, and again, follow up to make sure the communication was received in the way you intended. If not, you’ll know what to do differently next time.

Owning communications includes making sure your messages get through. Sometimes that means you have to be willing to take chances and to engage in communication that you haven’t in the past. And you also have to be committed to constantly trying to communicate more effectively. That takes endurance. Endurance to push past thinking, “Well, I can’t control how someone else receives my messages.”

Instead, commit to becoming a catalyst for effective communication, always asking, “What can I do to influence how my communications are received?”

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