Impactful structure – three easy ways to order your content

15th April 2014

Structure is important.

If your communication has a clear one, it might work.

If it hasn’t, it definitely won’t.

Other people must be able to follow your structure. But, if you communicate your content in the same order that you developed it, you’re probably taking them on a journey they didn’t need to go on – yours.

Instead, here are three ways to create an easy-to-follow structure:

#1: The 5Ps (ideal for making a persuasive, logical argument)

I like this one. It’s easy to remember (everything begins in P!); and helps you create a compelling story:

  • Position – ‘our world is currently like X’
  • Problems – ‘and X is causing us problems, because of Y, which means Bad Thing Z’
  • Possibilities – ‘given this, we only have three viable options, which are…’
  • Propose – ‘I recommend we do the second option, because …’
  • Please (Call To Action) – ‘therefore, please can you…’

#2: “Why Vision Act?” (great for leaders communicating to their teams)

This one starts with the leader creating the need for change. She then gives clarity and direction by focusing on the (long-term) desired future. The final step is to close with the (short term) actions necessary to achieve it:

  • Why – why change is needed
  • Vision – the long-term future vision is for us to look like…
  • Act – therefore, the next steps are that we should start X, stop Y and continue Z

#3: Walloping (can be very impactful when presenting to senior teams)

Most senior teams I’ve spoken to don’t rate the presentations they see from their reports. They’re too long, un-structured and without a clear Call To Action. What a waste… both of the Execs’ time, and all those lost opportunities for the presenters.

This Walloping Structure below is quite polarising – it certainly isn’t appropriate in all cases. But, when it is, it’s very impactful. And it’s a great way of getting yourself heard if you’re delivering a short presentation in the middle of a full-day board meeting:

  • Wallop – hit them with a big problem – ‘did you know, we’re needlessly wasting £4million every month’
  • Down – make the wallop worse, to build the pain – ‘that equates to nearly £50million a year. Every year. A couple of years from now, this is going to be around the £100million mark’
  • Up – bring them back up by explaining your proposal, and the impact it will bring – ‘we have an opportunity to stop this. It’s …’
  • Please – as with the previous two structures, finish with a Call To Action. This will be they endorse your proposal, plus maybe 1-2 other actions you also want them to take

These three structures work well, though your best option depends on the situation of course. But, whichever one you choose, always create content by starting with the structure, and then adding the flesh later. It’s easier for you. It’s easier for the recipient. And, when it’s easier for you both, it’s much more likely to work.

Action Point

Review your diary. Which imminent communications would benefit from a good structure? Then, identify which of the above three – or another – technique will help you create something of value for your recipients.

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