MORE QUICK WINS – top tips to mastering common communication problems

15th July 2014

Improve your writing style

  1. Use shorter paragraphs. Ideally, they should be four lines max, so people can skim read quickly
  2. Use shorter sentences. Ideally, they should be 1-1½ lines long. If they’re longer, you’re probably joining two shorter sentences with “and”, “but” or “so”
  3. Ensure your titles are interesting. An easy way to do this: imagine your current title is “Our Proposal” (this is your agenda) and you’re writing to someone who wants to free-up staff time (their agenda), insert “how” before and their agenda after. So “Our proposal” becomes “How our proposal will free-up your staff’s time”

Improve your slides

  1. Make the titles better. Use the technique in the third bullet point from the previous list
  2. Remove as much content as possible. The easiest way to do this:
  • write the full version with word-y slides
  • print this out so you have a set of speaker notes
  • press “delete” a lot, leaving only the key words
  1. Use visuals. You don’t have to use drab bullet points. Instead, you could communicate them as a flowchart, a family tree, a bar chart, a pie chart…

Improve conference calls

  1. If the call isn’t needed, stop having it. Ask yourself “what harm would it do if we stopped this?” If the answer is “none”, you know what to do
  2. Check the format is correct. For example, if your calls tend to be one person speaking most/all of the time, that would probably make a better email. Or you could send a detailed email in advance, and then have a much shorter conference call to discuss it
  3. Use names, not open questions. Asking an open question (‘Has anybody got any thoughts about that?”) results in: silence, five people speaking at once, a shorter silence, two people speaking at once, then total silence! So, use names (‘I’m sure you’ll all have views on this. “John, let’s start with you. What do you think?’

Write better proposals

  1. Where possible, send them late, not early. Do your selling verbally – that’s more persuasive than any document could ever be. Then send your proposal which confirms what has been agreed, rather than doing the selling for you
  2. Put the price at the end, after you have listed all the value you’ll bring. This puts your price in a better light. It also puts it in context. Saying ‘it costs £100,000’ before saying what ‘it’ is makes the number meaningless
  3. Agree the proposal headings with the buyer. Nothing highlights poor scoping more than the buyer saying “This isn’t the information I need. And if you can’t get the document right, I doubt you can do the project”. Also, knowing the headings makes it easier and quicker for you to write

Selling your vision

  1. Why it’s needed – ‘The problem that needs fixing is…. And the negative impacts it’s having on you are….’
  2. The future vision – ‘Given that, where we want to be is ….’
  3. Immediate actions – ‘So, the things we must stop doing are … and those we must start doing are…’

Action point (again three quick wins)

As last week…

  1. Today, use the above tips that will give you the quickest wins
  2. If they work, keep using them. If they don’t, adjust to suit your circumstances; then try them again until they do
  3. Hit ‘Reply’, and tell me what other topics you would like ‘quick wins’ for

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