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The seven essentials of great business communication

By Lee Hopkins

There are seven essential elements to successful business

Psychological Rule of 7"2

If you are going to communicate effectively in business it is
essential that you have a solid grasp of these seven elements.
So let's look at each in turn...

How you structure your communication is fundamental to how
easily it is absorbed and understood by your audience.

Every good communication should have these three structural
elements: an opening, a body, and a close.

The Opening allows your communication's audience to quickly
understand what the communication is about. Short, sharp and to
the point, a good opening lets your audience quickly reach a
decision of whether or not to pay attention to your message.

The Body is where you get to the 'heart' of your message. It is
in the body of the message that you communicate all of your
facts and figures relative to the action you want your
communication's audience to take after attending to your message.

There's a key to rapid uptake of your message -- KISS. Pitch
your presentation's graphics at a grade seven child. If THEY can
follow and understand them, chances are good that your audience
will too.

The Close is where you sum up your communication, remind your
audience of your key points, and leave them with a clear
understanding of what you want them to do next. The more
powerfully you can end your communication, the more easily
remembered it will be by your audience.

This structural rule holds true no matter what your
communication is -- a memo, a phone call, a voice mail message,
a personal presentation, a speech, an email, a webpage, or a
multi-media presentation.

Remember - your communication's audience can be just one person,
a small team, an auditorium full of people or a national, even
global, group of millions.

In this instance size doesn't matter -- the rules remain the

Be clear about the messaqe you want to deliver, as giving a
confused message to your audience only ends up with them being
confused and your message being ignored.

If you are giving a message about, say, overtime payments don't
then add in messages about detailed budget issues or the
upcoming staff picnic -- UNLESS they ABSOLUTELY fit in with your
original message.

It's far better and clearer for your audience if you create a
separate communication about these ancilliary issues.

Nothing more upsets a regular reader of, say, your newsletter
than inconsistency of your message.

Taking a position on an issue one week, only to overturn it the
next, then overturn THAT position the following week, only
breeds distrust in your message. And distrust in you!

People who distrust you are exceedingly unlikely to take the
action you wish them to take. They are also highly unlikely to
pay any attention to your future messages.

As well as consistency amongst multiple messages, be aware that
inconsistency within your message can be just as deadly to
audience comprehension.

At the risk of sounding like the Grouchy Grammarian, please make
sure that your tenses remain the same, that your viewpoint
doesn't wander between the 1st and 3rd person and back again
(unless you deliberately want to create a linguistic or
story-telling effect - be careful with this!) and that your
overall 'theme' or message doesn't change.

If the only tool you have in your toolbag is a hammer, pretty
soon everything starts to look like a nail.

Similarly, if all you believe you have as a communications tool
is PowerPoint then pretty soon all you'll do is reduce very
communications opportunity to a PowerPoint presentation. And as
any of us who have sat through one too many boring slideshows
will attest, "seen one, seen 'em all"

There are a myriad of was you can deliver your message - the
trick is to use the right one. But which is the right one? The
one that communicates your message:
* with the greatest accuracy
* with the largest likelihood of audience comprehension
* at the lowest fiscal cost
* at the lowest time cost

Note: it must meet ALL of these criteria. There's absolutely no
value in spending the least amount of money if the medium you
choose doesn't deliver on any of the other criteria.

Choosing the right medium or media is obviously critical. Get
the media mix wrong and you could end up spending a whole lot of
time and money on a very visually attractive business
communication that delivers next-to-zero ROI.

It never ceases to amaze me that business managers still believe
that everyone would be interested in their message - and then
proceed to subject any and every person they can find to a
horrendous PowerPoint slideshow put together by a well-meaning
but aesthetically-challenged subordinate.

Screen-after-screen of lengthy text, in a small barely legible
font size (because a small font size is the only way to fit all
of the words onto the slide), which the manager duly and dully
reads verbatim.


The psychological reality is that unless a person is interested
in the subject of the message they are highly unlikely to pay
ANY attention.

Which means that if you force them to attend to your message you
will actually turn them against you and be even less likely to
receive their attention in the future.

Save your in-depth budget and performance analysis Excel-
generated charts for those who genuinely care and need to know
about such things.

If your business communication needs to touch on several areas
that might not be of interest to your entire audience, let them
know of alternative resources that more fully address each of
these additional areas.

You can do this by, for example, providing them with an
easily-remembered and written link to a webpage where a greater
depth of information can be stored.

It is essential to know that, one week later, a business
communication is remembered by one or both of two things:

* the power and memorability of its opening
* the power and memorability of its close

Psychologists call the effect of remembering the first few items
presented as a 'Primacy Effect'. Similarly, they call the effect
of remembering the last few items presented to you as a 'Recency

Since individuals differ in which Effect is the most dominant
for them, it is best to 'cover your bases' and make an effort to
have both a powerful and memorable opening and a powerful close.

A powerful opening can be anything that captures the audience's
* a quote,
* a joke,
* a loud noise,
* a preposterous statement.

Just make sure that your opening remains consistent with and
relates to the subject of the communication.

Equally, a powerful close that bears no resemblance to the main
body of the communication would just confuse and disappoint an
audience brought up to expect something more.

And don't think that humour will save you.

Business communication is a serious business and very few people
have the skill to be able to deliver a humourous message that
the audience will retain and act upon.

As Granville Toogood says in his excellent book 'The Articulate
Executive', humour is a very risky strategy.

If you are determined to use humour in your presentation, then
please follow Toogood's recommendation:

* Tell the story as if it were true. The punch line is a lot
funnier if we aren't expecting it

* Tell the story to make a business point. If you don't make a
point, you have no business telling a joke

* Make sure you tell the story correctly, don't mess up the
punch line, and make sure it's appropriate.

The opening and closing of your business communication are the
two most easily remembered and therefore essential elements.
Make sure you give your audience something to remember.

The Psychological Rule of 7"2 (seven plus or minus two)
Psychologists have long known that the human brain has a finite
capacity to hold information in short-term or 'working' memory.

The brain is also structured to retain information in 'clusters'
or groups of items. These clusters average, across the whole of
mankind, at seven items, plus or minus two.

Which means that your audience is only able to hold on to
between five and nine pieces of information at any one time.

Now do you see the importance of clarity of message and of
having a distinctive and memorable opening and close?

If you want your key points to be remembered even five minutes
later, it is essential that you limit your business
communication to between just five and nine key points.

Equally, if you want your key action points to be remembered
five weeks later, ensure that your communication is amongst the
five to nine most memorable messages your audience has attended
to in the last five weeks.

There are seven essential elements to successful business

Rule of 7"2

If you are going to communicate effectively in business it is
essential that you have a solid grasp of these seven elements.

About the Author

When you match consumer psychology with effective communication
styles you get a powerful combination. At Hopkins-Business- you can find the secrets to
communication success. At Hopkins we show you how to communicate
better for better business results.


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