You’re probably familiar with the saying that if you’re good with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. That approach may work in construction but it doesn’t in communications. To be an effective communicator you need to custom-fit your approach by being outcome-oriented and audience specific. That means you need to tailor your communications based on what outcome you’re trying to create and how you need to show up with specific people or groups to make that outcome likely.
Here are three action steps you can take to tailor your communications to your audience.
First, follow the lead of Olympic athletes and visualize what it is you’re trying to do. Before you go into communications mode, think through and visualize your answer to two questions. First, if you’re wildly successful in your communications, what happens at the end? What do people know, think, do, feel, believe or agree to? After you’ve got that picture in your mind, think through the second question – how do you need to show up to make that outcome likely? That will be more about how you engage in terms of your energy and body language than the specific content of what you say. Should your energy be high or low, positive or negative? Are you transmitting more, receiving more or hitting a sweet spot between the two? Creating a pre-game picture in your mind of what you’re trying to do and how you need to show up to do it, will make you more effective in the actual event.
Second, as you prepare, work through your answers to three important questions: What? So What? and Now What? What is about the topic. That may not change much from audience to audience. So What is where you start to tailor the communications by getting clear about what this person or group cares about and why they care or don’t about your topic. Now What is about the outcome or next step. Before you wrap up the communications, take time to make sure that everyone is on the same page with the Now What.
Third, receive as much as you transmit. Communications is not just about talking, it’s about listening. Take time to ask the questions that will help you learn more about the other people in the conversation and what’s important to them. In the sales world, they call it needs based selling. This is the same idea. You want to learn and address the key issues of everyone involved and what’s really important to them so you can shape the rest of the conversation to where they’re coming from.
For more ideas on how to tailor your communications to the needs of a particular audience, check out Chapter Four of my book The Next Level – Pick up custom-fit communications; Let go of one-size-fits-all communications.
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