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2 min

Leadership: Communicating well when the stakes are high

Black woman holding a paper.
Written by
Edafe Onerhime
Published on
July 3, 2020

Do you have great ideas but struggle to get them across? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to always land important messages with your audience? You need a clear goal and the right structure for your content — here’s how.

According to Matt Abrahams of Stanford Graduate School of Business, a high stakes communications starts with a clear goal. Knowing your goal helps you focus what you say, hone the message, and after, check how successful your communication was.

Here’s some simple structures Matt shares in How to make your communication memorable. Practice using them to write emails, deliver presentations and write articles. Your audience is more likely to take action and engage with your argument.

What if your goal isn’t clear? Break it down with Matt’s 3 components for every goal: information, emotion and action. At the end of your meeting, presentation, article or email:

  1. What do you want your audience to know?
  2. How do you want them to feel?
  3. What do you want them to do?

Work on your goal till it’s clear to you, then think about how best to communicate your message using a message structure.

It’s easy to lose your audience when you don’t set their expectations or they can’t remember why they’re there. A message structure helps you prepare so you can be present and your message has structure. This makes communication more enjoyable and memorable.

Matt’s three communication structures for you to place your content into are

  1. Compare — Contrast — Conclude: List things in common, things that are different, then identify your conclusion.
  2. Problem — Solution — Benefit: State what the problem is, how you solve it, and finally the benefit to the person. Alternatively, Opportunity — Solution — Benefit as above but start with the opportunity.
  3. What — So What — Now What: Matt’s (and my) favourite is to start with what you’re talking about (the product, the idea, the process), why it’s important to people you’re talking to, then next steps — what can you do with that information. This structure is perfect for agendas, email, getting feedback, delivering presentations and more.

You may have struggled with communication in the past. Practising with goals and structures can help you make your message memorable. Try this out in your next high stakes communication.

P.S did you spot this article is written nearly entirely in message structures? What did you think? Send me a reply here or by message, I’d love to hear from you. I highly recommend Matt’s talks on Youtube including How to make your communication memorable. You can also follow his work on No Freaking Speaking — speak up without freaking out.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexel

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