STOP preparing communications the way you currently do. Instead, do this…

8th March 2016

Three facts for you:

  1. Most communications don’t impress you
  2. Most communications were prepared using the same approach
  3. Therefore, the way most people prepare doesn’t lead to impressive communications

So, if you want your communications to impress others, don’t prepare in the way most people do – which’ll be by thinking one of:

  1. What do I want to say?
  2. What slides have I got that I can use?
  3. I’ve done loads of work. I need to show them everything I’ve done
  4. What’s everything I can tell them about this subject?
  5. What are all the things I think they need to know?
  6. What are my big concerns? How can I ensure they don’t come up in my presentation?
  7. I don’t think I’ll do any prep. I’ll wing it and see how it goes…

I see these all the time. And so, I imagine, do you.

But they aren’t the best way to prepare…

  1. When you start by thinking what you want to say, you end up saying too much
  2. When you look at what slides you’ve got, you try and force them into something that might not work
  3. When you want to justify how much work you’ve done, much (none?) of it won’t be relevant to them
  4. When you think everyone wants to know everything you know about a subject… well, they don’t. They want you to know everything about it, so they don’t have to
  5. When you focus solely on what you think they want to know, you might miss what they want
  6. When you don’t address their concerns, they stay concerned
  7. And, as we all know, poor preparation leads to poor performance. Don’t wing it. It won’t work

So, instead, here’s a better, quicker, simpler way to create impressive communications.

Just remember these four words:

  1. Do
  2. Will
  3. Won’t
  4. Start

In other words…

  1. Do – start by thinking what you want people to DO after hearing your communication. Once you know this, work backwards from there to decide what content you need
  2. Will – identify why they will do this DO. What are the benefits to them of doing it? The problems it’ll cause them if they don’t? What’s your best evidence that your proposal will work? Maybe show them a timeline showing how everything fits together… whatever they need so they will do the DO
  3. Won’t – why they won’t want to do the DO. In other words, identify their likely concerns and then think of how best to remove them
  4. Start – first impressions drive everything. So your start must be brilliant. Once you’ve done steps #1-#3, decide the most compelling way to start. It’ll probably be the best benefit in your ‘why they will’ (step #2)

Finally, although you’ve prepared in this order, you speak in a slightly different order – start/will/won’t/DO:

  1. Start with a powerful start (of course) to get them onside
  2. Will – list the benefits to them of doing what you want, including enough info so they can make their decision
  3. Won’t – pre-empt and remove any concerns – “You might well be thinking X. Well, we needn’t worry because Y”
  4. Do – now they’re hopefully convinced, ask them to do what you want

These four steps all sound so easy when you read them, don’t they? But you might not want to even try it. For example, you might think:

“This feels very new, Andy. And I don’t like new things”

That’s understandable. So try it with a low-risk communication. If it works, repeat it next time. If it doesn’t, tweak it and try it again.

Or you might think “It might make things worse, Andy”

Well, I’m not sure how, to be honest. After all, you’ll still be including the detail you would have included anyway (in the “Why they will” section). You’ve just added a compelling start and end, plus removed their concerns. How could that make things worse?

Maybe you’re thinking “But it will take me longer”

Not in my experience. In fact, once you get used to doing things this way, you’ll see it’s a much quicker way to prep. Also, remember: the thing that takes longest is when things don’t work. This approach helps ensure it does.

This Tuesday Tip has followed this start/will/won’t/DO format.

The start kept you reading.

I then listed reasons why you’d want to do it.

And then removed the reasons you wouldn’t.

So, we now come to the most important point of all, the DO…

Action point

For your next communication today, try this approach. If it works, use it again. If it doesn’t, tweak it and try again. You’ll be amazed how much quicker it is…

…and how much more likely it is to work.

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