Whether you are new to the workforce or a corporate executive, you may find yourself in the position of needing to write and present an effective message to a group of people. This could be in a somewhat intimate setting, like a group of colleagues in a small conference room, or in front of a large crowd at a corporate event.
Being able to communicate effectively is a necessary skill for any successful leader. Knowing how to understand your audience, pick the right words, and then string them together effectively to convey a purposeful message is not a skill that comes naturally to everyone. It often takes a lot of trial and error.
Ineffective communication can also be costly for an organization. According to an article on the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) website, “A survey of 400 companies with 100,000 employees each cited an average loss per company of $62.4 million per year because of inadequate communication to and between employees.”
Regardless of your level of communication and presentation skills, here are a few tips on how you can begin crafting your message and presenting ideas effectively.
1) Be Clear and Concise
When it comes to the process of communicating an idea, more words don’t always equate to a better speech. You don’t have to write a novel. Be selective in your choice of words and concisely convey your idea. Make sure that the words you choose are not vague or leave your reader with any questions or confusion. Additionally, keep your sentences short and to the point. If you can say what you need to in just a sentence or two, you don’t need to lose your audience in a rambling paragraph.
Grammarly, an AI-powered online writing and editing app company, has additional tips for clear, concise writing: Remove “weasel” terms and redundant phrases, incorporate transitional words or phrases, limit your use of adverbs, and avoid passive phrases whenever possible.
For additional learning dedicated to the art of effective writing and presentation tools, be sure to check out Big Think Edge’s Business Communication video learning program.
2) Cultivating and Using Your Leadership Voice
Crafting your message and presenting ideas effectively is not just about being able to write or speak well — it’s also about your content and delivery being engaging.
In one recent Harvard Business Review article, Amy Jen Su, co-founder and managing partner of leadership development and executive coaching firm Paravis Partners, says that it is important for a leader to develop their variations of a leadership voice. The parts of the leadership voice include character, context, clarity, curiosity, and connection.
According to Su:
“Ultimately, you should cultivate enough parts of your voice so that no matter the leadership situation or audience you find yourself facing, you can respond in an authentic, constructive, and effective way.”
3) Speak to Your Audience
Writing and delivering effective messages for different groups requires different approaches — a one-size-fits-all approach is ineffective. Tailoring your message for subordinates is different than writing for your colleagues, board members, shareholders, or members of the public or media. You need to know why the topic is relevant and valuable to them. Writing a generic message for a knowledgeable audience can be perceived as insulting, as can speaking at too high a level to a general audience.
In a Big Think article, Nobel Prize recipient and author John Steinbeck offers the following advice:
“Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person—a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.”
4) Remember What It’s Like to Not Know
In an article on Big Think, TED curator Chris Anderson shares what Harvard psycholinguist (and Big Think expert) Steven Pinker calls "the curse of knowledge." It’s the idea that once you know and understand something, you forget what it was like to not understand or know it and, therefore, it makes it more difficult to empathize with others who don’t know it.
“Learning is an organic process. Any big ideas you possess have grown over time from intellectual sprouts. Yet too often when we try to communicate our ideas, we disregard how they came about in the first place.”
By heeding this advice, you can write more effective messages that speak to your audience on their level of understanding.
5) Read Aloud
Don’t just read what you’ve written in your head — physically stop and read what you have written aloud so you can hear how it sounds. How is the tone or phrasing? Does it sound natural and conversational? Does it come across as very formal? Decide what kind of tone would be most appropriate for your message and change the content accordingly.
Another article on Big Think discusses a recent study by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Chicago, which reveals that being persuasive is only partly about the words you use.
“What the study did find, though, is that we base our opinions of these people on more than just their thoughts and ideas as expressed through words. It turns out that listening to someone speak, or watching them do so, leaves the audience considering the speaker less of a dolt, and more someone whose opinions might be worth listening to.”
6) Borrow Another Set of Eyes
A best practice of many writers and presenters is to ask someone else to review and edit their speeches or presentations. Not only does this help from a copywriting perspective — ensuring that there are no typos, missing words, or other glaring errors that you may have missed — but it also provides you with an opportunity to get some feedback about your message as a whole.
7) Practice Your Presentation Skills
Treat preparing for a presentation as you would a rehearsal for a play, ensuring that all goes smoothly. You’ll want to practice your speaking and presentations skills so that you begin to learn the content rather than memorize it, and you don’t sound like you’re simply reading from a piece of paper. This will provide you with a level of flexibility in your delivery that you otherwise won’t necessarily achieve.
8) Practice Presenting to a Colleague or Colleagues
If presenting in front of others leaves you feeling uncomfortable or out of your element, others may sense your discomfort and be distracted. Take the time to have a run-through presentation with at least one friend or colleague. This will provide you with an opportunity to gain some additional feedback about your message as well as your presentation or speaking abilities. If you communicate these ideas to someone who is an effective speaker, they may be able to provide some invaluable insights or ideas that you may not have otherwise considered.
9) Be Prepared
When you’re getting ready to make an important presentation, a common fear is forgetting something or finding yourself unprepared for the unexpected. What if you’ve emailed yourself a copy of your written speech, only to discover when you arrive at the presentation destination that the network is offline? What if you tried to send yourself the PowerPoint presentation via email but forgot to attach the file?
An article on Big Think has outlined eight of the most important items to make sure you have when delivering your message to make sure you’re prepared:
- A presentation remote
- An up-down timer
- A screen timer
- A wireless broadband dongle
- A USB memory stick
- Audio and video cables
- Travel speakers
- Contractor power strips
For additional communication tips and strategies, check out some of our videos with world-famous industry experts! You never know what new tricks you may find to drastically improve your own workplace.