Do NOT live your dreams

20th October 2015

People say you should live your dreams.

But I don’t want to.

Otherwise I’ll end up lying in one of the cornfields from The Wizard Of Oz, totally naked, holding a blue flipchart pen.

Which just goes to show, old sayings aren’t always right.

And here are some other old sayings – about communication, of course. And they aren’t right either…

Communication is all about your message

No it isn’t.

It’s all about the impact your message has. In other words, what people do after you’ve spoken.

So, start your prep by thinking “what impact do I want to have?” and then work backwards from that goal, to decide on the best messages to achieve this.

Meetings should last an hour

No they shouldn’t.

They should last as short a time as possible, to achieve the outcomes you want.

So, to prepare, ask yourself:

  • What outcomes do I want to happen following this meeting?
  • What are the only topics we need to cover, to achieve these outcomes?
  • How quickly can we cover these topics well?

Prep like this, and it’ll take less than an hour.

Emails provide an Audit Trail, so use them

Yes, they do provide an Audit Trail.

But that doesn’t mean the entire conversation must be by email. Doing that means you both write too much and cause needless delays, as your emails are just a few of the hundreds you both see that day.

Instead, it’s often better to chat it through with them first, get verbal agreement, then send a confirming email to provide the Audit Trail.

Summaries are essential

Kind of.

They can be useful, yes. Especially in documents. After all, many (most?) of us read the summary first, then dip into the detail of the sections we’re most interested in. The reason we like summaries in documents is because we choose the order we read them.

But in presentations, the presenter chooses the order; not us. And when they say “summary”, we often switch off. Partly because we’ve already heard it; and partly because our focus has immediately gone to the day’s next activity.

So, instead of saying “summary”, try something like “Remember, the most important three areas from my presentation are X, X and X. But, even more important is what we do next. Therefore my ask of you is this: X”.

‘Tell ‘em what you’re going to tell them, tell ‘em, and tell ‘em what you’ve told them’


But, if you just keep repeating your messages, people just remember your messages. It doesn’t mean they buy into them, nor do they take any action as a result.
Instead, the better version is:

  • Tell ‘em why the presentation is in their interest
  • Tell ‘em what they need to know, so when you…
  • …tell ‘em what you want them to do, they do it

I admit: my version does lack a bit of bounce. But it’s more useful.

“With respect”

When you say this, the other person knows you’re about to say something they might find disrespectful!

I’m sure you could produce your own list of sayings that – when you think about them carefully – don’t convey what you actually believe.

So it’s always worth checking: are you doing Communication X because it’s the best way to do something; or because you did it last week?

Get this right, and you truly will live your dreams (well, some of them anyway).

Action points

Check your diary: which of this week’s communications are happening because they have a clear, important purpose? And which ones because you always have them?

For the second group, identify what you could do to stop having them. Or at least reduce them in some way – less agenda topics, duration, attendees and so on.

One other action: There are lots of old sayings about communication that aren’t right. I address every single one of them in my online video club. Here are some examples.

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