Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Communicating more effectively as a job and career skill set 2: adding in the supporting details

This is my second installment to a series on what is one of the most important, and also one of the most commonly problematical of all workplace skills: communicating with others, and as an effective two (or more) way process (see Part 1: bringing what you seek to say into clearer focus.)

I focused in Part 1 on identifying and thinking through and conveying a core message – and knowing and sharing the most important point or conclusion that you seek to share, and in a way that can both be remembered by others that that would create opportunity for further discussion. I then ended that posting by citing my version of an old adage, to the effect that “the devil can be in the details, but the angels can be there too.”

I assume as I begin this posting that you have an idea as to what your most important point is for some issue that you need to more effectively communicate. And I assume that you have at least begun to think through how you would offer this in brief elevator pitch format and without extraneous details or digressions. Now comes the challenge. The person who you wish to share your information or judgment with, indicates that they would like to hear more. You do not want to “data dump” and simply bury them with facts, opinions and details.

• What is the best approach that you could take for putting your core point into an effective supporting context, arguing its importance and relevance, and supplying relevant supporting detail?
• What is the best way to proceed after offering your conversation opening elevator pitch, in really entering into a conversation on this?

Two crucially important points have to be addressed there:

• You need to both know you core message and your basic line of argument that you would use to expand upon and clarify it, and
• You need to know your audience and how best to craft a message that will work for them.

Let’s start with the first of these points, and I add with the process that you went through in identifying and phrasing your core elevator pitch idea. What were the details and facts that went through your mind as you thought this through, that specifically brought your core idea into focus for you as your most important single point? Chances are, these and immediately connected clarifying details that would cover your basic assumptions, would belong in any clarifying discussion that you would share with others. And any point that you would see as being more of a digression in this probably is, and should only be added into your fleshed out draft presentation if the conversation actively goes in its direction and with the person or people you are speaking with showing interest in it.

Now let’s consider the second point and your target audience, and I begin here by presuming that you know the people who you would share your ideas with and their communications styles and preferences, just as I presumed above that you enter this conversation with time in advance to think through your goals and priorities here, and what you want and need to communicate to best argue the case for your core point.

• Do not drown your audience with levels of detail that they are not prepared to hear. If you have captured the interest of the person or people who you are talking with and they want more details or supporting information, they will let you know by asking you for further explanation, and the direction and tenor of their questions and comments will tell you what types of detail you need to share in support of your core point, when conveying it to them. They will tell you how to be more convincing, and I add what you can and should leave out too, or put off for later conversations and discussion.
• So start out lean in what you offer and work with the people you speak with, enlisting their help in deciding how best to add the details and where to leave them out.

Body language is important here; you do not want to find yourself facing an important audience who you need to share important information with and see them starting to drift away from you in the midst of this. If they start to look away, that is a sure sign that you have lost their attention and interest, and that you need to reengage if this conversation is to proceed on anything like a positive note. And you may have to step back and try again later for even that to work.

I have made several basic assumptions here:

• You are entering into a verbal conversation here. I will consider written communications too, where you do not get the immediate feedback of seeing body language or other immediate course correcting responses.
• I have assumed that you have had time to think the details through in advance, but that is not always possible; circumstances can arise very quickly where an important conversation suddenly becomes necessary and you have to order and priorities what you convey on the spot and as you go along.
• I have assumed that you really know the people you need to share this information or insight with, but that is not always the case and sometimes you have to figure out their communications styles and preferences as you go along, and course correct accordingly. You may have to discern their basic assumptions and any barrier assumptions that they bring to this too.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment, and with these points, and will then turn back to issues that I noted in Part 1 as points of discussion that I will delve into in this series. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide. You can also find this and related material at Social Networking and Business and its continuation page.

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