Tag Archives: Persuasion

Five more random acts of kindness for readers

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been reading and editing a lot of project reports and documents lately.  As I have, I’ve been keeping a running list of suggestions, errors and missteps to consider when embarking on a new writing assignment. Here are the latest additions. (Previous list is here.)  I’ll add to the list as my editing marathon continues.

  1. Define in your mind who your audience is and what you want them to do as a result of reading what you’ve written.  Consider making that definition a part of the document you’re writing to help readers better understand how they may benefit from or act upon what you’re written.
  2. Based on your intended audience, examine what you’ve written to determine whether an intended reader will know or understand every term of art or technical word/phrase.
  3. A declarative statement or editorial comment should be bolstered by proof points; without them, readers often judge such pronouncements as naive or obvious.
  4. When presenting  lots of information, think about using a matrix to organize and summarize material for the convenience of readers. 
  5. If you are discussing items in a series, present the same kinds of information for each item.  Deviations from item to item will stop readers in their tracks as they try to divine whether an omission is an error, an attempt to manipulate a conclusion or something entirely different.

The 7-step quick-and-easy presentation outline

When consensus building, last-minute opportunities pop up to talk with specific interest groups and attempt to elicit their support.  Often these groups have such specific interests that a standard “stump speech” just doesn’t cut it in terms of content and focus. 

The time and effort involved in producing a tailored presentation for these groups can be reduced, however, by thinking about the mental map of those you are trying to reach.  That is, what questions will they have in mind as they decide whether to attend your presentation, pay attention and give you a fair hearing?

When faced with this kind of last-minute, one-off presentation situation, I think about how I will answer these questions that I believe most potential audience members have as they decide whether and when to pay attention:

  1. What’s the problem or opportunity generally speaking?
  2. Why should I care?
  3. Who are you that I should pay attention?
  4. What are the specifics of the issue/opportunity?
    1. Why is it a problem now?
    2. How much does it affect me?
    3. When will it affect me?
  5. What are the solutions?
    1. Why won’t the status quo handle the issue?
    2. What are the “easy” answers and why won’t they work?
    3. What/who will fix the problem and what are the pros and cons of each solution?
  6. What do I need to do?
    1. What are the specific things you want me to do, when and in what sequence?
    2. What resources are available to help me do this?
    3. How will I know when I’ve succeeded?
    4. Again, why do I need to do this as opposed to someone else?
  7. How will the world be different if I pay attention to you and do what you’ve asked.

 

Face to face still #1 in neighborhood communication

Coalitionists looking to get the word out about their endeavors abandon or minimize face-to-face community communication at their peril, according to a Pew Internet poll.

Although electronic communication continues to grow in importance, personal contact (face-to-face and phone) is three times more frequently used than Internet tools, at least in terms of neighborhood issues..

What Bronze Quill judges can teach you about communication

In our shop, we’re getting geared up for entering the Kansas City IABC chapter’s Bronze Quill Awards.

And as we’ve been going through the annual procrastination that postpones actually writing our entries until the last minute, we’ve been discussing strategies for winning judge attention to and appreciation of  the full brilliance of our work.

In a moment of pontifical self-importance, I penned (electroned?) the following guidance based on my experience as a communication awards judge and my observations of other judges.

It strikes me that the counsel here – assuming you find it persuasive – also generally applies to any situation in which you’re trying to communicate complex information to people who are interested in a topic, but by no means necessarily experts in the specifics you’re trying to convey. Where the word “judge” appears, just think audience or stakeholder or whomever is the target of your communication affection.

So, for your use or toss:

“As you are preparing your Bronze Quill entries or future communication competition entries, here’s my perspective on what plays well based on judging a lot of these competitions and hearing other judges beef and moan about things they are reading.

It is just one person’s perspective, however; so take it with that grain of salt.

  1. Judges are looking for significance. Why is this project important? What did it accomplish? What and how did the effort and its results help the sponsoring organization achieve? It’s hard to answer those questions too often or too thoroughly to turn off a judge.
  2. Keep in mind that your judges are looking at dozens of entries. It’s at the end of the day, they’re tired and preoccupied reviewers. They most likely are skilled communicators who know very little about you, your client or the subject matter involved. Anything you can do to help them understand and remember you and the project is a good thing – including repetition.
  3. Judges often are looking for easy-to-spot (and sometimes trivial) reasons to hammer or elevate entries. So here’s my list of things that may keep your entry in contention.
    • Judges usually are experienced communicators (i.e. many like me are in bifocals and/or are suffering from computer eye fry).  If they have to look at fonts that are intricate or smaller than 11 points, they will hate you. Likewise, they will be seriously peevish if they have to read some dense river of text. Simplify and open up text by:
      • Using simple, direct language.
      • Highlighting by position, formatting and other techniques what is important about the material you are presenting.
      • Scrutinizing every sentence that has a comma in it to see if the sentence should be broken up into two or more sentences or edited down to one simpler sentence.
      • Using bulleted or numbered lists wherever possible.
      • Moving complex or lengthy material to appendices if rules allow it.
    • As experienced communicators and smart humans, they likely have seen or shoveled more professional manure than you, so will disdain your use of adjectives but praise your reliance on facts and analysis to make your case.
  4. Bottom line, what’s story have you told.  A judge judges by mentally recounting to herself or himself the abbreviated, cocktail party version of the story you’ve presented and then assesses whether that story is true, important and compelling.  Have you told such a story in the project summary – which sets or at least frames the judge’s perception of everything that follows?  And have you then constructed your entry to support and extend that simplified understanding?”

Without Comment: Seven ways to get what you want

7 Ways to Get What You Want: “Influence is the key to any leadership role. Some folks do not like talking about it, but power and influence are natural phenomena in organizations and in leadership roles. People who want power and influence often try not to appear as if they are seeking it, and some people who have power and influence are reticent about how they actually got it.

Research into the area of power and influence is fascinating. In one notable study, 165 managers were asked to write short descriptions of occasions when they influenced their bosses, co-workers, or employees. (See Kipnis, Schmidt, Swaffin-Smith, and Wilkinson, ‘Patterns of Managerial Influence,’ Organizational Dynamics.) The responses from these 165 managers were condensed and rewritten into a 58-item questionnaire that was then administered to over 750 managers. In this questionnaire, the managers were asked both how and why they influenced people in the workplace.

This research identified seven key influence tactics:

(1) Reason: Using facts and data to bolster your request.

(2) Assertiveness: Using a direct and forceful approach, such as demanding compliance, ordering others to do what is asked, and pointing out rules that must be followed.

(3) Friendliness: Creating goodwill by being affable and acting humble prior to making your request.

(4) Sanctions: Doling out punishments or distributing rewards.

(5) Coalition: Getting the support of others to back your idea, proposal, or request.

(6) Bargaining: Negotiating with others for the exchange of benefits or favors.

(7) Higher authority: Gaining the support of others at higher levels in the organization to back up your idea, proposal, or request.

The researchers discovered that the managers did not rely equally on the seven influence tactics. When the managers were interacting with their superiors, the most commonly used tactics (in order of frequency) were reason, coalition, friendliness, and bargaining. When the managers were interacting with their subordinates, the most commonly used tactics (in order of frequency) were reason, assertiveness, friendliness, and coalition. Interestingly, the use of sanctions was the least popular influence tactic by the managers. What’s more, the managers who controlled resources valued by others, or who were perceived to have more power than others, used a greater variety of influence tactics and employed assertiveness more often than did managers with less power.

To be an effective leader, you need to know which influence tactic to use in which situation. This leadership skill often separates the great leaders from the rest.

So, what influence tactics do you use?

Scott Derrick is the Director of Professional Development at the Senior Executives Association, a nonprofit professional association of career federal executives. Scott is also an executive coach and leadership consultant with the Federal Executive Development Group LLC, a consulting company specializing in leadership development in the federal sector. The views expressed here are his own.

(Via GovLoop.)