Build bridges – the secret to communication brilliance

26th April 2016

To become expert in anything, you have to practise.

Whether it’s playing sport, a musical instrument… anything – the better you practise, the better you become.

So, here are two quick questions for you:

  1. Do you think it’s important to be good at communicating? (everyone I ask replies “yes” to this)
  2. Given how important it is, do you practise communication often enough? (everyone says “no – not given how important it is”)

Assuming you also answered “yes/no”, you’ll now know that you have to practise more.

But which bits should you practise? After all, you’re super-busy. You haven’t time to practise everything.

Well, on previous Tuesday Tips, I’ve already covered four key things to rehearse – your:

  • Start, so you wow them early
  • Close, so it triggers the desired decisions/actions
  • Questions, so you get them talking
  • Responses to their likely questions, so you don’t dread anything they’ll ask you

And here’s a fifth: the bridge. In other words, how you’ll bridge between the different stages of your conversation.

For example, in a meeting, you’ll no doubt start with a quick rapport-build. But how to bridge to the business part? You need to know this; or you’ll be building rapport for an hour.

One bridge I use is “My understanding is we’re here to explore X. Is that what you think?”

They’ll either respond “yes” – in which case we crack on. Or “no”, to which I reply “I’m glad I asked! What did you think?”

Either way, the official part of the meeting has now started.

Another example of bridging is at the end. This is something people often struggle with. How to politely stop the chat, and confirm decisions/actions?

One I use is – ten minutes before the end – “I’m conscious of time”.

When I say this, people look at their watch. Then they look back at me. We both know the meeting is drawing to a close. And that we have ten minutes to close it, and agree our decisions/actions.

A final example – when you’re presenting information (could be a full-blown presentation; could be discussing an agenda item), how to bridge from slide/topic #1 to #2? It’s important it flows. Bridging ensures it does.

I find the easiest way is to use my bye/hi technique. In other words, say “bye” to the previous slide/topic, and “hi” to the next. For example “So, that slide has confirmed this is financially viable. But it’s essential our people are also on board. Let’s look now at how we’ll make sure this happens…”

I’ll stop now (after all, I’m conscious of time). But you get the point. Script/practise your bridges. And things flow smoothly and quickly to the next part of your chat.

In fact, I see Tuesday Tips as a bridge – between what you were doing before them, and what you’ll do differently afterwards. That’s why I always end with an…

Action Point

What’s your first meeting today?

And how will you bridge between the rapport-build and the body of the meeting? Then between topic #1 and #2? And then from the chatting to the actions?

Script/practise these in advance. And everything will flow much better. You’ll achieve more. In less time. Not a bad outcome for a few little bridges…

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