Let’s face it. Everyone is busy. Our attention is being divided by our devices and channels. We receive communication through email, text messaging, collaboration tools like Slack or Confluence, social media and occasionally (no really) someone calls. We are receiving more information from more sources on different devices than ever before. “Did you receive my email Jack?” Nope. And, Jack hasn’t checked his inbox for several days either. Here at stable|kernel, communication is key to our clients’ success. As an agile development consultancy, our effective communication methodology helps us manage and control incremental iterative software projects of all types and sizes. What makes us unique is the direct, effective communication that our clients receive from every member of their team including our software engineers, project managers and designers. Everyone on our teams contributes, collaborates and most importantly communicates.
What does effective communication look like?
As we strive for excellence in effective communication, we should look to share information effectively within our audiences’ preferred channels. These channels have changed significantly introducing new software tools and creating new opportunities for productive interaction. Some of the tools we currently use for communication at stable|kernel include Slack, Confluence, Jira, email and face-to-face meetings. We have found each tool to bring with it unique value, both internally and externally.
Regardless of the tools we use to communicate, some things have never changed. In short, regardless of the technology, we should all be considerate of how people want to receive information and write for our audience. And, so I give you 7 steps, that I have picked up along the way. I hope this brings value to you as you deliver your communications.
Step 1: Keep it Simple
Plan ahead that more than 50% of your audience will probably be opening your communication on mobile. According to a past study by Microsoft, the average person’s attention span is currently around eight seconds. That is one second less than a goldfish. Limit each communication to one specific topic or project. Shorten your URLs, utilizing online services like bit.ly. Hyperlink URLs. A good plan is to review the content you have sent on your own mobile device. Do you see a monster URL that is taking up the entire screen? Do you have to scroll through five screens to read all of the content? Have you lost yourself as an audience? Make sure your content is digestible, easy to understand and make an impression. You only have 7 seconds to spare.
Photo Credit: Pexels
Step 2: Stick to the Point
If you are reaching a new audience? 1). Say what you are going to say. 2). Say it. 3). Say what you have said. And, here is a great place to put in a quick call to action. If you are relaying critical information on a project? Summarize quickly, state what is needed and communicate clear objectives. Have your subject line match your information on email and change it when starting a new string. Don’t include too much in every Slack message, but consider breaking up the content by category. If you want a quick response, make your content quick to read. My rule of thumb is to have just one point per communication with a matching subject line when utilizing email. Short. Simple. Done.
Step 3: Don’t Include the World
Have you ever wondered why you were included on a correspondence? Do you ask yourself this question often? Ask yourself who really needs to read what you are communicating. It’s a good practice to take a minute to review your recipients. It will also help eliminate including the wrong person in an email or group channel. And, does that information really need a separate Slack channel or is there one already set up that would work instead? Our CEO told me recently that he has 30 active Slack channels he reviews constantly. Did you check to make sure your email recipients are the right people? How many times has your heart stopped when you hit send? Oh, and don’t feel you have to respond to all. Responding to the group interrupts everyone. Again, who needs to read the information?
Step 4: Bullet Copy
I started doing this several years ago and have found it makes reading content so much easier. Bullets act like mini-headlines encouraging a scanning reader to continue reading all of your content. If you deliver weekly reporting, it also makes it easy on the aggregator to cut/paste your information. And, it helps eliminate fluff. And, now for one of my favorite AA Milne quotes? “If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.” (Thanks to Winnie-the-Pooh. Brilliant.)
Step 5: Consider Executive Summaries
If you are communicating any type of results or a brief? Consider a quick executive summary with a link to Confluence, Jira or your CRM system where you can include more detailed information. The busier your audience, the less likely they have time to read through everything immediately. Meeting notes, briefs and information for proposals all can be stored elsewhere. A few quick executive summary sentences with a link will enable them to access that information when they are ready to review it. And, most tools like Slack and Confluence have the save or search features available for when they want to retrieve your message.
Photo Credits: Pexels
Step 6: Know Thy Audience
Different personality types like different types of communication. A technical buyer is interested in knowing the details of our software development. A marketing director wants to hear about how we have researched their market. A creative director loves collaborating on the UX/UI design. One style does not fit everyone. Write for the audience who is receiving your messaging. This will improve your response rate significantly. This is particularly important for executives who don’t have time. When writing for this audience less is definitely more.
Step 7: Be Authentic
Advice to the readers who are developing new business for your team? The biggest single take away I have had from a career in business development is that it is always better when I am simply myself. I have found that when I send communications with a genuine interest in the recipient they receive a much better response than canned content. And, after you drill it down isn’t that what we all want? To deliver the best content through the right channel with the goal of the desired response. I close with another favorite quote from one of the world’s most amazing teachers, “They may forget what you said but they will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou.