Ever give instructions to a group and the voice in the back of your head says, “they’ll know what I mean”? Well, that doesn’t always work. Even when you’re working with the best people.
It happened in our office just this week when we set up our Decker Team Tournament Pool for March Madness. For those of us who are college basketball fans, it was obvious what to do – and how to fill out a bracket. Others asked what they should do with the blank lines – and if they could dance, too. It turned into a bit of a minefield (just look at some of these FAQs!).
The familiar lesson bears repeating: Stay listener focused, no matter what.
Whether you are sending an instructional email, giving a presentation, leading a meeting or attending a networking event, take the extra time to frame your message specifically for your audience.
Start by answering these questions about your listeners:
- Demographics – Who are they? How old are they? What is their occupation or role in the company? What is their cultural makeup? Why are they being included?
- Needs and interests – How are they motivated? How can you help them? Are they data driven, or business driven? Do they want or need to be included?
- Attitudes – What do they know about the subject? What do they know about you? How do they feel about you? Will you have to overcome apathy, opposition or resilience? What would make them resistant?
Examining the unique DNA – demographics, needs and attitudes – of your audience will help you understand your listeners. It’s not about you. Think very specifically about the characteristics of your audience.
Does college basketball pulse through everyone’s veins, or are some people missing that chromosome? It depends on your audience.
There is no such thing as private communication. Who are your listeners?