101 Tips for Improving Your Business Communication
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This book contains business communication information that may not have been taught in college–information that has been accumulated over years of business experience and teaching.

Anyone can read these brief tips to learn how to better communicate in business while saving the time that might have been invested in reading many books.

The tips cover the fundamental areas of writing, speaking, and interpersonal communication, as well offer general business communication advice. Each tip is a practical application that can be implemented immediately. Each tip is also illustrated by a story from the author’s work life in various industries. Lastly, the book also lays a foundation for an understanding of how the brain influences all communication.



Publié par
Date de parution 09 février 2021
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781953349996
Langue English

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101 Tips for Improving Your Business Communication
101 Tips for Improving Your Business Communication
Edward Barr
101 Tips for Improving Your Business Communication
Copyright © Business Expert Press, LLC, 2021.
Cover design by Charlene Kronstedt
Interior design by Exeter Premedia Services Private Ltd., Chennai, India
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means-electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other except for brief quotations, not to exceed 400 words, without the prior permission of the publisher.
First published in 2021 by
Business Expert Press, LLC
222 East 46th Street, New York, NY 10017
ISBN-13: 978-1-95334-998-9 (paperback)
ISBN-13: 978-1-95334-999-6 (e-book)
Business Expert Press Corporate Communication Collection
Collection ISSN: 2156-8162 (print)
Collection ISSN: 2156-8170 (electronic)
First edition: 2021
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
This book contains business communication information that may not have been taught in college, information that has been accumulated over years of business experience and teaching. Anyone can read these brief tips to learn how to better communicate in business while saving the time that might have been invested in reading many books.
The tips cover the fundamental areas of writing, speaking, and inter-personal communication, as well as offer general business communication advice. Each tip is a practical application that can be implemented immediately. Each tip is also illustrated by a story from the author s work life in various industries. Lastly, the book also lays a foundation for an understanding of how the brain influences all communication.
business communication; audience; BLUF; body language; brain; customer; differentiation; eye contact; gestures; emotional intelligence; networks; novelty; PowerPoint; posture; props; question; quote; simplicity; statistic; story; speaking; writing; you
How to Use This Book
Part I The Brain
Part II Business Communication Tips for Success
Section 1 General Business Communication
Section 2 Writing
Section 3 Presenting and Speaking
Section 4 Interpersonal Business Communication
About the Author
You hold in your hands the book of Communication Tips I wish someone had given to me before I began my career in marketing and business communication.
I knew the fundamentals of speaking and writing from my college courses and thought I was pretty good at both. When I began my career as a teacher, I had plenty of experience presenting before middle school audiences trying to attract and keep their attention (not an easy task with 12-year-olds). But, when I transitioned into business and began reading books about business communication, I found few practical tips to help me succeed every day in front of critical business audiences.
Now, after a long and successful career as a businessperson and teacher, I decided to list tips to help those who need to know the wisdom that isn t found in business textbooks or taught in classes. You can buy plenty of books with many details about all of the topics I have surveyed in this book, especially writing and speaking. If you need deep levels of detail and theory, I can direct you to them, including some major college textbooks. But, if you re looking for advice that you can use immediately to improve your communication in business and improve your stature as a communicator, you have found the right book.
I worked for 30 years as a marketing, communication, and fund development professional, including service as Chief Marketing Officer at iCarnegie, a Carnegie Mellon University firm, as a Vice President of Marketing in a statewide hospital system, and as a Director of Corporate Communications for a video startup. In addition, I have taught Professional Writing, Marketing, and Business Communication at Carnegie Mellon University for 25 years (and taught Negotiation, Strategy, and Entrepreneurism on occasion). For my efforts, I won the Heinz College Faculty Excellence Award in 2006, and I was named Distinguished Educator in 2011 by the Pittsburgh chapter of the American Marketing Association. I have taught in England, The Netherlands, India, China, Mexico, Panama, Australia, Kazakhstan, and all over the United States, and, lastly, I have served as a consultant to local, national, and international companies, including Cinepolis, Cognizant, and a variety of smaller firms and political campaigns. In other words, I have earned my stripes by having to create messages that would attract the attention of diverse audiences and move those audiences to action.
For my wife, Holly Welty-Barr, who makes the good things in my life possible and who lent me unending support and invaluable advice in writing this book. Also, to Scott Isenberg who believed in this book and Debbie DuFrene, an outstanding editor who reviewed the book and made many suggestions for its improvement. I thank you.
How to Use This Book
You can read a few tips per week over the course of the year and you will improve your business communication. You can read tips related to specific topics in writing, speaking, or general business communication. If you re preparing for a presentation in your staff meeting, you can read just the tips that deal with presenting. If you are preparing a major presentation to executives or an international audience of peers, you can find helpful tips about that.
In many ways, this is a book about common business sense. For instance, when you are making a presentation to executives, you must prepare to answer every question an executive might ask before she can ask you. You ll never be happier than on the day that you deliver a presentation to executives and they have no questions to ask. It means you were thinking deeply and strategically, just the way they want you to act. It means you have understood the audience, the first rule of communication.
Enjoy reading the book. It aggregates knowledge I have learned after 50 years of business and teaching. I know it will improve your communication game.
Do you REALLY want to be promoted? If you do, I have the key for you. Communicate better.
Sure, you expect me to say that, right. After all, I teach communication at one of the best universities in the world and I have taught communication for some of the best corporations on the planet. But, it s true. Plenty of business news stories make the case for communication skills as a way to promotion. Download and read this article from The Bloomberg Recruiter Report: Job Skills Companies Want But Can t Get. 1 The report makes skillful use of quadrants. In the upper right quadrant under Less Common, More Desired, you will find Strategic Thinking, Creative Problem-Solving, Leadership Skills, and, you guessed it, Communication Skills.
The Bloomberg Report also says, Business schools are supposed to produce graduates who have the abilities companies need most. But, cor-porate recruiters say some highly sought-after skills are in short supply among newly minted MBAs. Bloomberg surveyed 1,320 recruiters and 600 businesses to arrive at their conclusions. But, they didn t have to prove it to me. For years, I ve seen the sad news. For instance, the New York Times wrote two articles: What Corporate America Can t Build: A Sentence 2 and Literacy Falls Among College Graduates. Yes, literacy, the ability to read and write, falls for college grads.
So, what does this have to do with your promotion? Everything! If you can communicate, you will differentiate yourself. You will possess a skill in great demand. You will stand above the MBAs who have great quant skills but weak writing and speaking skills. You will face a job market that can t find the skills you have. You will be fought over. Recruiters will fall at your feet.
Employers want communicators! Recruiters shared with the Wall Street Journal the attributes they were seeking in job candidates. In the article titled How to Get Hired, 3 recruiters in the survey cited Communication and interpersonal skills (89 percent) as the most sought after student attribute. It was followed by Ability to work well in a team, (87 percent) Personal ethics and integrity, (85 percent) and Analytical and problem solving skills (84 percent).
A report from ExecuSearch titled The 5 Top Skills Employers are Looking for in 2020, listed communication, 4 and specifically says, Regardless of position, level or industry your ability to communicate with others can define your success . . .
Another article, entitled This is the most in demand skill of the future, 5 in INC. magazine in 2019 says, In the AI abundant world of tomorrow, where technology will do much of the heavy lifting, the ability to deliver compassion and empathy . . . will become much more valuable . . . Also, soft skills represent the top three missing skills of job applicants, according to the Society of Human Resource Management s 2019 State of the Workplace. 6 These and other business-related articles tell you that you will move faster on your path to the best jobs through powerful communication.

1 https://bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-job-skills-report/
2 https://nytimes.com/2004/12/07/business/what-corporate-america-cantbuild-a-sentence.html
3 https://wsj.com/articles/SB109577501492723498
4 https://blog.execu-search.com/top-skills-employers-are-looking-for-2020/
5 https://inc.com/ryan-jenkins/this-is-most-in-demand-skill-of-future.html
6 https://shrm.org/about-shrm/Documents/SHRM%20State%20of%20Workplace_Bridging%20the%20Talent%20Gap.pdf
Part I
The Brain
To best understand communication, you need some rudimentary knowledge of how the brain works. I do not claim to be an expert on brain function, just someone who has continued to be fascinated by the small bits I learn from the books of renowned neuroscientists and assorted others including neuromarketing experts. I take that knowledge and fit it inside the context we all inhabit. This is the context.

We get too many e-mails, tweets, text messages, blog posts, catalogues, newsletters, radio commercials, TV spots, popups, banner ads, billboards, and so on.
We can hardly deal with the onslaught. Each of these mediums presents us with numerous issues. Consider continuous partial attention; we cannot focus on one task and complete it. Instead, we try to juggle five or six things at the same time, maybe more. We read our e-mail, work on our report, talk on the phone, and check our Facebook posts at nearly the same time. I say nearly because science has proven that no one can pay attention to more than one thing at a time. We can t truly focus on two things simultaneously. Forget texting and driving; you either text or drive.
We have a very short attention span, 8 seconds and shrinking. That is compared to a goldfish with a 9-second attention span. Attention has become the gold standard. If you can capture attention, you have a chance of getting your message through. I say you have a chance (you ll learn the challenges you face later on). On top of that, if your message does not dominate that short attention span, it may get rejected.
A web developer in Omaha, Nebraska, Andrew Fisher, auctioned on eBay the use of his forehead as advertising space. He sold the rights to a company that owned a product SnoreStop and for a month s display, Andrew earned $37,375. Not bad for a month s work.
We see Andrew s forehead and we see a message. We visit the men s room and we see messages above the urinals. (I can t speak to the ladies rooms but I m guessing they have messages too.) We see body art (tattoos) on many people. We see little polo players on the clothes of the cool people who wear Ralph Lauren clothing, as well as many other product and company names and logos, FUBU, Tommy, DKNY, Sean Jean, and so on. And that does not begin to consider the bombardment of billboards, posters, radio, and television ads we encounter on a daily basis.
Then there are the 55,000 text messages sent every second. And 3 million e-mails are sent every second. And the 5,700 tweets are sent every second. And then, there are blog posts, and so on. Every political campaign sends at least one e-mail every day, probably three or four on other days.
Data never sleeps. It just keeps rolling in, ever flowing. I admit, I m adding to it herewith. But I m trying to help you with the insights I have gained from neuroscientists so that you can actually reduce your messaging by getting it right the first time.
We try to focus, but our e-mail pings. Then someone stops by our cube to ask a question or BS. Our phone buzzes with texts. A customer calls with a question. The interruptions never end. We lose much of our day trying to re-focus, which scientists indicate takes 15 minutes to 30 minutes. In the process, we either ignore or forget most of the messages sent at us.
We have much more distraction than communication, and we grow more and more frustrated because our messages don t work, our products don t sell, and our companies fail.
According to many scientists, we have learned more about the human brain in the past decade than we ever knew. EEG and fMRI, especially, have given us much information about how that 3-pound tool at the top of our heads works.
But, it does amazing calculations and functions, including keeping our hearts beating and keeping us breathing! The brain can perform 200 million billion calculations with its 80-100 billion neurons and its 1.1 TRILLION cells. Pretty amazing, right?! Its neurons fire anywhere from five to fifty times per second. The brain has more wiring than the world s biggest supercomputer, 200,000 miles of wiring!
7. YOUR BRAIN WEIGHS LITTLE BUT CONSUMES MUCH OK, so it s only a little guy, weighing a measly three pounds. The brain makes up for its small size by consuming as much as 20-25 percent of the oxygen and glucose you consume. Who said thinking wasn t hard work? Now you know why you need a nap at the office at midday!
And, you don t even know it. Your brain helps regulate your body temperature. It regulates your heartbeat. It helps you breathe. Yes, your brain does those things while you re busy thinking you control the world. Yes, we think we consciously control things. But, we take in 11 million bits of information per second (mostly through our eyes) and we only process 40-50 bits of it. That means, 99.99 percent of our brain function is non-conscious.
We will purchase more beef if the sign tell us 75% lean ground beef than if it says, 25% fat ground beef, although both are identical. We don t rationalize this. We decide non-consciously. Why, because of a technique called framing largely unconscious to us. We will buy more German wine when German music is playing in the liquor store.
If you and others enter a room with a backpack on the floor, you are likely to be more cooperative; however, if money is on the floor, you will be more competitive. If you are exposed to an Apple logo, you are likely to be more creative than if you are exposed to an IBM logo. Hey, maybe we should have Apple logo wallpaper at work! If you are holding a warm cup of coffee and are asked to evaluate a stranger, you will evaluate that person more positively (warmer).

today brain scientists are slowly displacing the conscious mind with the nonconscious mind as the center of human mental activity. This shift is as important, and as profound, as the shift, in astronomy, from the earth-centered to the sun-centered solar system
-Genco, Pohlmann, Steidl 1

Wow! That is saying something! We are using our non-conscious brains to get around in this world. We think we use consciousness but many studies show us otherwise.
Things were rough, to say the least when we lived in caves. The men woke up hungry and ready to hunt. This was the age of eat or be eaten. Humans had a slight disadvantage-they were smaller, slower, and weaker than most animals. Every kind of animal out there was interested in a nice warm human dinner. But, we had developed thumbs, good hand movements, and developed tools, as in weapons. We stood upright to see the competition better and we developed perspective. Our trachea elongated and we were able to make sounds that allowed us to communicate. These advancements helped us to survive and thrive.
Women woke to the cries of their children and their hunger. Together with the other women, they stayed close to home looking for roots and fruit, as well as water. They cared for the sick and came to rely on each other. They built social networks, became masters of empathy and learned quickly to interpret body language and facial expressions. Women internalized the notion of community, knowing that if ostracized, they might perish, along with their children.
One hundred thousand years ago, we were thinking -where shall we plant, hunt, bury our relatives? We drew cave paintings, switched tasks, practiced rituals, and experienced emotions. We used our executive function, our thinking brain, that is, thinking in the way we usually define it as conscious activity.
We wake hungry and aggressive. Instead of battling wild beasts, we battle traffic and the person in the next cubicle who wants our job. We function with the same Triune Brain (three-part). So, what is this three-part brain? Scientists refer to it as the Lizard-Limbic-Neocortex Brain, as well as the Hindbrain-Midbrain-Forebrain. You may have heard it described as Survival Brain-Emotional Brain-Thinking Brain. This name also suits it well: Mammalian Paleo-mammalian Neo-mammalian. Regardless of which nomenclature you prefer, they all describe the same thing.
The lizard brain guided humans, just as it guided lizards, through the dangers of the world. When it encounters something new and unusual, it asks some very basic questions: Should I kill it, eat it, mate with it, or run? As the emotional brain evolved, it added to the lizard brain memory and feelings about the important stuff it encountered. The thinking brain allowed us, unlike the animals, to use memories to build plans and societies. But, most of the three-part brain s functions were (and are) being carried out non-consciously. Why? To keep us alive!
Imagine that you are a centipede. You ve got these hundred legs and you suddenly must consciously decide how to place one in front of the other for a quick walk down a leaf. That d be pretty troubling, wouldn t it? Leg 1, leg 2, leg 3, leg 5. No wait. Leg 4. Oh crap! Or, imagine you are a human being and you must continually, consciously regulate your heart beat, lung action, respiration, and blood pressure. Controlling all those functions consciously, you d never get anything else done!
That s challenging enough. So, we rely on our non-conscious minds using gut feelings, doing things the down and dirty way and using the power, as Malcolm Gladwell called it, of the blink.
What comes to mind when you think of Dr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy of Star Trek fame)? Spock retrieves and evaluates information, right? He processes it quickly and dispassionately, like a computer. He makes choices based on logic, created from his thinking brain. He doesn t change his behavior or thinking unless he is given new information. He s a data wonk. We like to believe we are all Spocks, of lesser but similar skill. We think that we think about things, that we use our thinking brain to make decisions. Sure, we do to some extent. We might have used conscious deliberation when learning to ride a bicycle, but after we learned, we committed it to our non-conscious to process ever after. Try riding your bike today and consciously thinking about balance! We committed the riding skill to System 1.
Well, actually you are both. Daniel Kahneman popularized these systems and won awards in the process. When you use System 1 thinking, it is fast, automatic, effortless, associative, emotional, intuitive, and inaccessible to conscious awareness. When you use System 2 thinking, it is slow, controlled, effortful, rules governed, neutral, deliberate, analytical, and accessible.
Dr. McCoy, unlike Spock, is a System 1 guy. He uses his instinct combined with previous experience and emotional cues. He doesn t always get his facts right and he does most things out of habit. If he were a buyer, he d buy things spontaneously because they felt right. He would buy emotionally and justify rationally. If you wanted to sell him something, you d use repetition, positive themes, and images. On the other hand, if you want to sell Spock, you d use the facts, just the facts, ma am.
Your brain wants to keep you alive. You should thank it regularly! To keep you alive, it needs to conserve its energy, save the power for your lizard brain, the place where some of your best instincts reside. Remember, your lizard brain is responding autonomously to the questions: should I kill it, eat it, mate with it, or run? Pretty basic, yes, but critical, especially when you lived in a cave. It isn t what we call thinking. We consider thinking a totally conscious action.
You ve experienced this, unfortunately non-consciously, when you walk through a dark parking lot at night or a dark room in your own house. Your lizard brain works full time, scanning for something unknown and possibly dangerous. Messages do not go to your thinking brain (neocortex) unless immediate action is needed.
Here s a scenario: Driving along on autopilot, out of the corner of your eye you see a car coming up fast off your left bumper and the son of a frog cuts you off. The image moves through your eye to your retina, which sends a signal to your occipital lobe (vision center). The signal passes to your thalamus and on to your amygdala. Your amygdala assesses the signal, which also goes to your cortex. The amygdala blocks your slow thinking and sets up a response. Your brain releases norepinephrine and your body automatically prepares for fight or flight. Major muscles groups are ready to act. Your pituitary gland is prompted to release the stress hormone epinephrine, which increases your heart rate and dilates your pupils. Blood flows to your large muscle groups. Your lungs dilate, too. Cortisol suppresses your immune system to reduce inflammation from any potential wounds. Your salivation decreases because this isn t the time for food. Your amygdala is working overtime-you ve experienced amygdala hijack. You are emotional. Your fear and anger are aroused. Your limbic and endocrine systems are activated. You are not thinking! (And, this is simply a result of being cut off by another driver. Imagine if someone shoved a pistol in your face!)
Forget about driving a car. If you walk through the woods and you spot a curved shape on the ground at your feet, the same thing happens, as in the car driving scenario. The shape goes to your occipital lobe from your retina then on to the thalamus and hippocampus for evaluation, on to the amygdala and then flash to your prefrontal cortex that will, perhaps, tell you, after you have felt your heart rate and blood pressure rise, that the object is a stick, not a snake. Guess what: the same process occurs in a monkey.
We might all be monkeys except for our PFC. This gives us the distinct advantage when it comes to executive functions : planning and goal setting. But still, we act before we think. Researchers have found that we become consciously aware of our intention to act 300 milliseconds after the relevant areas of our brain become active. Then 200 milliseconds later, we act. When we think we have made a decision consciously, we tend to post-rationalize, that is, we invent the reasons why we did things. We must remember these things when we send messages.
Let s look at this 3-pound masterpiece and wonder of the known universe (in a greatly simplified view).
TWO HEMISPHERES: The right receives most inputs from the left side of the body and vice versa. It is good at pattern recognition and holistic thinking. The left receives inputs mostly from the right and specializes in language and rule-based reasoning.
THE FOUR LOBES: I know; it sounds like a singing group. But, these help you to understand the map of the two hemispheres: the frontal lobe (Gee, I wonder where that is), the parietal lobe (straight back from the central sulcus (fissure)), the occipital lobe at the back, and the temporal lobe between the parietal and the occipital. (Don t worry; there won t be a test on this.)
PREFRONTAL CORTEX: This part, situated in the front part of your brain, sets goals, makes plans, directs voluntary actions, and executes.
ANTERIOR CINGULATE CORTEX: This part steadies your attention and monitors your plans.
CORPUS CALLOSUM: This passes information between your brain s hemispheres.
THALAMUS: This is the brain s switchboard. Messages are sent through it.
HYPOTHALAMUS: This controls your temperature and other functions to keep you in balance. Master of the master gland, the pituitary gland, this is the place where endorphins and stress hormones are located.
HIPPOCAMPUS: This has to do with the creation of memory and detection of threats, receiving inputs from the neocortex.
AMYGDALA: This also serves as a memory organ but it focuses on emotional processing. It interacts with the prefrontal cortex to generate emotions related to anger, happiness, sadness, surprise, and mostly fear. When you respond out of sheer terror, your amygdala has the top spot, functioning as your alarm system! Clang! Clang! Clang!
CEREBELLUM: This controls your complex motor coordination.
MID-BRAIN, PONS, AND MEDULLA: These transition between the brain and the spinal cord. These control respiration and heart rhythm, among other vital things.
Together neurons make most of our actions happen. They function as our on-off switches. Each neuron has dendrites that receive information and axons that carry information to them. At the end of the axon, a gap exists between it and the dendrites. That gap is called a synapse. Across that gap travels excitation or inhibition signals.
We have many neurotransmitters but a few are worth a cursory and simplistic mention. These include:
SEROTONIN: This regulates mood, sleep, and digestion.
DOPAMINE: This regulates reward and attention and is often called the feel good transmitter for its relationship to that aura we feel when we ve exercised or eaten a big chunk of chocolate.
NOREPINEPHRINE: This transmitter alerts and arouses, among other things.
ACETYLCHOLINE: This controls wakefulness, among other things.
Neuropeptides play important roles. You will recognize the names of some of these:
OPIODS: They buffer stress, soothe, and produce pleasure.
OXYCOTIN: This is the love chemical. It s related to nurturing, bliss, trust, and connection.
VASOPRESSIN: This promotes pair bonding (but may promote aggression in men).
CORTISOL: This is released by the adrenal glands during stress. It has stimulating effects on the amygdala.
ESTROGEN: This affects your libido, mood, and memory.
You will pay attention to a message depending on your brain and the neurons within it. The electrochemical reactions make us who we are and what we do. To communicate well, you need a basic understanding of the brain, its design, its functions, and the chemicals it releases.
When you understand the brain you will be better able to understand all forms of communication, including how to grab someone s attention, how and why to connect with them emotionally, how and why to create a connection and network, how to create a pitch, how to influence your colleagues, and many other important aspects of communication. We will look at them here in a little more detail.

1 Genco, S.J., A.P. Pohlmann, and P. Steidl. 2013. Neuromarketing for Dummies , 21. Canada: John Wiley and Sons.
Business Communication Tips for Success
General Business Communication
Now that you have a basic understanding of how your brain functions, let s look at the fundamentals of business communication, as set out in the following tips. Take a few tips or two each week; ruminate on them. Apply them to your communication.
TIP #1
Know the Audience
We are all more interested in ourselves than anyone else. It helps us stay alive. But it hinders our ability to understand others. Anyone who wants to communicate well, in writing or speaking, must begin with the audience. Good communicators have a preference for the audience. That is, these communicators think of the audiences needs and wants before crafting a message.
Before you write or speak a word, ask yourself questions such as these:

Who is the Primary Audience? Are there any Secondary Audiences?
What does my audience already know about this topic?
What does my audience need to know about this topic?
Who is the audience in terms of demographics and psychographics (age, ethnicity, marital status, religion, income, geographic location, life styles, and so forth)?
Think of these questions, also:

What action do I want the audience to take?
What issues of timing are important to the audience?
How do they like to receive information?
What is their point of view likely to be about this topic?
What is their culture? Are they from a low or high context country, for instance, do they rely on words to create meaning or body language and other contextual clues? (More on this later.)
Famous management guru, Peter Drucker said, It is the recipient who communicates. The so-called communicator does not communicate. He utters. Unless there is someone who hears, there is only noise. 1
A student wrote to me and asked how she might approach a list of CIOs by e-mail to get a virtual meeting. She said, Should I tell them the job I want and attach my resume and relate my skills to their business? Or, should I list the highlights of my resume in the email body and ask for a networking call, without mentioning that I want a job?
I said, Whenever you write to anyone, they want to hear about themselves or they want to know how they will benefit from your message. They have little-to-no interest in you.
That said, begin by telling them how great they are, not how great you think you are. Tell them you read about them on LinkedIn or that someone told you how great they are. Subtly remind them, they were once like you, looking to get started. Don t brag on yourself; it s incredibly boring.
Ask for a call. Give a time limit (15 minutes). Say something light, such as- If you speak with me, I ll remember you when I hit the lottery -something off-beat that they will remember. Or, tell a story with an emotion. That s tricky but powerful. You can always begin with a question, quote or statistic. These grab attention.
For a few years, I taught in a summer program, the PPIA Fellowship Program, also known at Carnegie Mellon University as the PPIA Junior Summer Institute at Carnegie Mellon. The acronym PPIA stands for Public Policy and International Affairs.
In any event, students from around the United States in their junior year of college who are interested in public policy and international affairs are recruited to attend PPIA on a number of different campuses, CMU included. The students tend to come from very diverse socio-economic backgrounds and circumstances. For example, one of my students had been living in a car because he had been awarded a protection from abuse against his parents. He was passionate about public policy, as are most of the PPIA students, the majority of whom reflect a minority background.
The courses CMU offers include Policy Analysis, Economics, Quantitative Methods, and Professional Communications. My CMU colleague and I taught the Professional Communications to the 30 students who comprised the summer class. He taught the Professional Speaking and I taught Professional Writing.
One summer I stood in the class talking about communication-sender, receiver, message, medium, noise, and so forth-acting every bit the professor and expert at communication. I stressed the need to understand the audience and I used business examples, and a student in the back row raised her hand and said, You don t understand us at all.
As you might imagine that remark caught me completely off guard. I stammered some inarticulate response and completely lost my concentration and flow, struggling through the rest of my presentation wondering how I misjudged the audience and how I might ever get them and my credibility back.
Well, at a moment like that, one learns the value of feedback, so I asked the student to stay after the class and tell me what she meant.
How could you understand us? she said. You are older than us, you wear the Polo clothes, you probably live in the suburbs. You talk to us about communicating and you use examples from your consulting and your business; we don t know anything about all of that. We want to hear about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Barack Obama and people we admire.
I knew instantly that she was right about the content of the lectures. I had taken my regular Professional Writing course and tried to teach it to them. And she called me on it. But the other part really puzzled me and I tried to explain to her why.
I grew up in a small town in a lower middle class family whose father was often laid off and usually drunk, I said to her. We ate surplus cheese and drank surplus milk, when we lived on welfare. I have felt shame and deprivation and I know exactly where you are coming from because I have lived it. I was the first person in my family to go to college. I had to face the jealousies and questions from my family about whether or not I would think I was better than everyone else. They actually asked me if I would still talk to them. So, I think I can understand and communicate with anyone who is marginalized.
That may be, she said, But you don t send that message when you re standing in front of the class. You don t seem like us at all.
I understand what you mean about the content, I said, and I will adjust the content accordingly. And I did. I used many Obama messages, I used King s Message from Birmingham Jail, I used Orwell s Politics and the English Language.
But, I was too far gone to change the subtle messages I sent, messages about my education, my socio-economic status, my business background. However, I came face-to-face with something I should have understood- we give messages even when we don t know it. What we wear, as much as the vocabulary we use, sends a strong message. Often those messages conflict with the messages we want to send. If we want to relate, or fit in, as we always do, we need to think about everything that creates our message because we are always sending messages, consciously or not!

TIP #2
Focus on the Benefits to the Audience
When you try to communicate with audiences, they always ask, consciously or not, What s in it for me? (WIIFM). They are really asking, Why should I listen to you or read what you wrote? They want to know how your message is going to affect them. Smart business people know this and they create their messages accordingly.
As stated in the first tip, Peter Drucker, once said, It is the recipient who communicates. It s true. And you won t communicate effectively until you understand that recipients are interested in benefits. Most people who try to communicate focus on features. My product does this and my product does that; it has this new widget and that new thing.
Audiences don t care what you think is so great about your message; again, they want to know how they will benefit (or suffer) from what you are saying. Show them the benefits (avoid the suffering).
Does anyone not know what the acronym WIIFM means? Why do we re-visit WIIFM here? Well, because it forms a cornerstone of all communication.
WIIFM abbreviates the truth that we are all creatures of self-interest. Simply put, when we hear a message, we strain it through our self- interest. If a message doesn t touch us in a place of our need or our interest, we will likely ignore it.
But, before we criticize ourselves too much for our self-interest, we must remember that self-interest has kept us alive since the dawn of time. Having self-interest helped us evade the saber tooth tigers and, more recently, the city buses, not to mention the bad guys in the city parks.
Fortunately, we don t have to worry for our lives in a business communication. Not yet anyway. Nonetheless, a wise person will keep in mind that if she wants to communicate with another, she will try to identify early on how her message benefits her audience. In other words, before she creates her message or chooses a medium, she needs to think from the outside in, identifying ahead of time the wants, needs, and interests of her audience.
Let s look at an example from the reverse, from the inside out, or from the writer s point of view. You know your objective. You want to introduce a new work schedule. You know that it will lead to more productivity and less absenteeism. You see higher revenues and commendations from your boss. Now, you just need to communicate the new schedule to the people who must live with it.
You may think this new schedule represents genius in management thinking, but you can bet the employees will see it as just another management interruption if you don t present it to them in a way that reflects their wants and needs.
Too many organizations say, This is the way it s going to be. This is the new schedule. Live with it. It s not the way to communicate with employees to get their cooperation or make them feel valued.
When companies market new products, they say, We created this new miracle product (or service). It represents the best cleaning agent in history. Buy it. Well, those days are over. Any company that thinks it can drive profitability through authoritarian rule, or one-sided messaging, has a rude awakening coming.
You are making a presentation to the executive team on a new advertising campaign. The heads of several operating units are in the audience. What do they want to know? They want to know how this campaign will affect them operationally. Should they expect more incoming calls? More sales opportunities? More staffing needs? More budgeted hours for current staff?
You can tell them how market share will increase but each person in the audience thinks about your message from their perspective, not yours. You hit them where they live, where they have a need.
This idea appears so obvious as to be commonplace. However, managers and staff interested in their own needs fail to consider those of customers or audiences. We fall back always on our needs, that which will benefit us, not the audience. Good communication doesn t work that way.
In any communication scenario, focus on the audience and their needs. Use the word, you. Create language about them. Subtly weave in language that shows how you can help them achieve their needs.

TIP #3
Use the Magic Word, You
During his presidency in the United States, Bill Clinton wrote an executive memo to all the departments responsible to him and ordered them to use Plain Language. In that memo, he urged them to use you and other pronouns. Bill wasn t considered a great communicator for nothing. He knew that we are all more interested in ourselves than anyone else.
You is a powerful word. Don t you think so? Use it! (That last sentence is imperative mode; use it when you feel confident.)
As much as we all love to hear our names, we love the word you. McDonald s knew that when they said in the theme to an advertising campaign, You deserve a break today. They talked to us and empathized with all of us who work hard every day (and those of us who don t but believe we do). Yes, you deserve a break today! They ended by saying, So, get up and get away to McDonald s. First they got our attention and then they showed us how to get that break we deserve by going to McDonald s. Use you!
In my classes, I always ask two volunteers to role-play two potential lovers. I ask one of them to say this to the other person: I am beautiful. I am wonderful. I am talented. Then, I ask the other person, What did you think about that? The other person invariably says, You are also boring and conceited. Then I say to the first person, OK, now tell the other person, You are beautiful. You are wonderful. You are talented. Again I ask, What did you think about that? The other person invariably says, I liked that! And who wouldn t. You might say it s flattery, but research has shown that we like flattery, even if we suspect it s not genuine.
The word you suggests that you are focused on the audience. Use it as the first word in any presentation. Use it in the subject line of any e-mail. Will it sound like Spam there? Perhaps. But I could go on for pages about why Spam works, even when you don t think it does.
So, YOU deserve a break today! You deserve to be a great communicator. You can achieve more in management, marketing, sales, operations, and in any capacity if you learn how to use you correctly.

TIP #4
Choose the Right Medium
When you want to communicate, you must make the right choice of media. You have so many at your disposal. Should we have a meeting, should we send e-mail, what about texts, Zoom, and so on? The differences among the media are subtle and if you choose the wrong one, it can have devastating effects.
Sometimes you must have a meeting, even if it s online. Some issues are too sensitive for you to discuss by e-mail or memo. Again, in every communication, you have the choice of media. Will you use memo, e-mail, report, phone call, fax, meeting (small group or large group), videoconference, Internet interface, Skype? Each offers different benefits and shortcomings. Know them. Choose the right medium.
Here s a medium that has all but disappeared; it s called the hand-written note. I always ask my classes, When was the last time you wrote a letter and mailed it? The millennials and Gen Zs look at me like I have two heads. If they sent one letter in the last five years, it s been a lot for them. It s a rarity, to say the least. For that reason, like first edition books and baseball cards from the past, it s more valuable.
To thank someone and have them feel very special, send them a hand-written note, not an e-mail. If you want to celebrate someone s accomplishment, send them a note and then send an e-mail to everyone praising the individual. Or call a meeting to praise the person. Combine many forms of communication to make the person feel special.
If you must criticize someone, do it in private. For harsh criticism, back it up with a memo, but try to avoid this. Experience tells us, employees fail and make bad mistakes because they have not been managed well. If they fail, it s likely your fault as much as theirs.
Above all, think deeply about the medium you use. You can have created a perfect message but if you use the wrong medium you can fail.
Want to know how powerful media choice is? Ask Neal Patterson, who, as CEO of Cerner Corporation in 2001, made an abysmal choice of media to deliver bad news (his choice of words didn t help either).
Neal sent an e-mail worldwide to 400+ managers at his company berating them for not caring about the company. His memo was leaked and posted on Yahoo and surprised the investors, who reacted by selling their stock and otherwise devaluing the company. The memo caused a PR nightmare for Neal. The NY Times covered the story and it still appears in communication textbooks as a model of poor choice of medium to communicate to a large group of people on sensitive issues.

TIP #5
Use the BLUF Method
Your audience has no time and little attention. They can t, and won t, wait for you to unravel your message like an Agatha Christie novel. They want the conclusion at the beginning, known as the BLUF Method, it puts the bottom line up front.
Give the message recipients the who, what, when, where, why, how, and how much as soon as possible. When you meet with the boss, pay special attention to the how, the process. Agreeing on dates and costs poses few problems, but executives especially want to know, How is this all going to get done? Show how you will get things done. Take the lead. Take the power. Most people happily give it up.
The BLUF Method is said to come from the military. If you are in a combat situation and are being overrun by the enemy, you don t want to give or hear explanations or evidence first, as in the deductive method, you want to give or hear the bottom line first, such as in the inductive method, We are being overrun; send reinforcements now!
When you write an e-mail, put the most important information in the first sentence. Better yet, put it in the subject line. The length of the line is not as important as the construction of the line. Use an action verb; after all, in business, we communicate for action. You might say in the subject line, Let s meet tomorrow at 11 am to settle the widget account. Don t worry about the length of the subject, just the grammar of it. Give it punch.
The first sentence can say something like this, I have the price sheets and have calculated the ROI, and we can discuss the attached action plan for no longer than 45 minutes.
When you write a report, give the bottom line in the executive summary. Don t make the audience wait; they won t. Don t make them guess where you are going; they won t. Don t take their time; they will never give you more in the future.
Recently, I was invited to judge a student entrepreneurial contest where the first-place winner was awarded a $5,000 prize. Not chump change for poor college students. Among the entrants, I saw a presentation pattern that needs to be changed, immediately-the habit of using a deductive approach.
Three judges, including myself, sat through six 10-minute presentations from either IT students or public management students or a combination thereof. Whether the students pitched non-profit ideas or profit-making ideas, they pitched them backwards. That is, they saved the most important information for the end through a deductive approach.
As a result of the students approach, one of the judges constantly interrupted the teams (and I interrupted my fair share). Why? Because we needed some critical information from which to judge their ideas before the allotted 10-minute limit ended.
The best pitchers use the best technique. If you want to know how to pitch, shop now for Oren Klaff s masterpiece, Pitch Anything. This book needs to be made mandatory reading for every student who wants to run any kind of business, especially any student who wants to be an entrepreneur and will seek funding. Among other things, Oren tells you to get to the point quickly and limit yourself to 10-18 minutes of pitch. He warns of several types of interruption and intimidation that happen in these settings, especially when you lose the control and attention of the audience.
We live in an attention economy. When I am teaching, I constantly reference the BLUF Method, the bottom line up front, for getting and keeping attention. BLUF offers a military approach, a way of communicating that cuts to the chase and gives the vital information immediately. Imagine being in the military. Would you like to be engaged in a heated battle and have a meandering conversation with someone? I don t think so.

TIP #6
Grab the Audience s Attention
You can t communicate with anyone if you don t have their attention. You may think that sending a message creates a communication, not true. Our brains filter messages because they focus on keeping us alive, as discussed previously. And, keeping us alive remains the primary domain of the Lizard Brain (or Reptile Brain), the bundle of neurons in our brain stem, at the back of our skull.
As noted earlier, our brain uses 20 percent of our oxygen and 25 percent of our calories to function. As a result, it s a cognitive miser, it saves energy to make automatic, unconscious life-saving decisions, not conscious, laborious thinking. This prevents our prefrontal cortex, our thinking brain, from dominating. So, if you want someone to recognize your message and respond to it, you need to rattle their Lizard Brain, the automatic brain.
How do you do that? Simply, you must disrupt the Lizard Brain. You can do that by using one of these tested techniques:

1. Ask a question
2. Quote someone
3. Tell a brief story
4. Cite a statistic
5. Create novelty
Each technique is important enough to feature by itself, you will find them in the forthcoming tips.
My wife and I went to see author Stephen King speak. He talked about his books and he did it, as you might expect, by telling stories. He grabbed our attention at the beginning by saying, The question audiences most often ask me is, Where do you get the inspiration for writing your books? By the way, did you park in the parking lot tonight? Did you lock your car? You re pretty sure you locked the car doors, right, but you re not positive. Maybe you did, maybe you didn t. Or maybe the trunk isn t really locked. Maybe there s a chance that someone might get into your car and then get into the trunk.
As King spoke, the audience squirmed a little in their seats, feeling the effects of his narrative. He used storytelling to captivate us and he also appealed to our emotions (fear and anticipation) while using specific, concrete language to put us in the story. He told the audience that his stories sometimes came from actual experiences. The book Misery came from an experience in an airport. He was waiting to take a Concorde flight to Europe when a fan approached him and would not leave him alone, asking questions and claiming to be his biggest devotee. When the plane finally boarded and he felt he was rid of the person, he fell asleep and dreamed about the situation. That dream served as the inspiration for his novel. Then he diverted back to his original comments about the parking lot. So, when you arrive home, is your garage or driveway well lit, how quickly can you get in your house? King made a great presentation, he grabbed our attention with stories and engaged our emotions, the techniques discussed above. To be a great presenter use these techniques and learn from the best.

TIP #7
Ask a Question
How do you feel about these tips so far?
When you ask someone a question, they feel involved and compelled to answer. Advertisers know this and for ages have used questions in their ad copy. Here s an ad question: Can you hear me now? Here s another, Got milk? And here s another from the archives, Does she or doesn t she? Only her hairdresser knows for sure. (Clairol)
Ask a question; get an answer and the audience s participation.
Questions engage a hearer s participation. Stop anyone on the street and ask him or her for directions. If you look lost, and don t look like a shady character, you will get a response. If you want to engage audiences more deeply, ask them how, what, and why questions. These questions typically require more dialogue, certainly more than who, when, or where questions, which can be answered in one word.
Books have been written about using questions, about leading with questions, about good leaders asking questions, about asking questions to change your life. Questioning can lead to powerful results. The most powerful result makes people feel engaged and important. And, as said before, you get their attention.
Ask questions, but do it effectively. Ask how, why, and what questions. When you ask how something will be done, you are asking about process, a critical consideration. When you ask why something is being done, you are asking mission and values questions, critical considerations, indeed. When you ask what questions, you are asking for goals and objectives, such as, what do you expect your outcome to be and how will you measure the results.
Keep an arsenal of questions up your sleeve and you will find that they will not just attract attention but endear you to others.
When I student-taught in Dubois, PA, many years ago, my cooperating teacher, Miss Marvel, told me never to ask a chorus question. What is a chorus question? It s one where the majority of the respondents will respond, typically in chorus fashion, loud and chaotic.
Never ask these types of questions in a presentation, the chorus question; they create chaos, and you lose control. You need to ask thought-provoking questions.
In those early days of teaching, I quickly learned that to engage students I needed to ask them questions that caught their attention and made them think. In graduate school, I had a professor who began each class with a discussion question. I quickly found that same technique worked well in presentations to executives. Begin a presentation by asking, Why should we expand our services to the West Coast? You have engaged your audience and diverted their brain to your topic.

TIP #8
Use a Quote

The brain is capable of roughly 200 million billion calculations per second,
- According to Dr. A. K. Pradeep, CEO of NeuroFocus and author of The Buying Brain.
Think of that, 200 million billion calculations ... per second!!
You can quote Dr. Pradeep or Steve Jobs or Sandra Day O Connor, or Martin Luther King, Jr., or Einstein, or Gandhi, or Mao, or any person, literally anybody, who said something likely to attract a reader s (or listener s) attention.
Quotes arouse our curiosity but they also validate us through a process of persuasion called, authority. When we quote Steve Jobs, we are borrowing his credibility to make our point. We will take a closer look at that through the eyes of Robert Cialdini who wrote a most informative book, Influence . For now, feel free to quote me!
Stories, quotes, and statistics interact almost seamlessly.
I once interviewed a woman who began the conversation by repeating a quote from a researcher, Research has proven that 18 percent of the people you interview will be related to you in some way. How do you think you and I might be related? I loved that. This quote introduced a very nice conversation between us and a successful interview is really a good two-way conversation, not a monologue. Later, she told me that she invented the quote; it didn t bother me a bit. I didn t hire her, but I didn t hire her because there was a much more qualified person. I have never forgotten her, though.

TIP #9
Tell Stories

The story is a machine for empathy. In contrast to logic or reason, a story is about emotion that gets staged over a sequence of moments, so you empathize with the characters.
-Ira Glass
To evolve as a species, we had to create communities and learn. We did that by storytelling.

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