Thursday, March 18, 2010

Better Communication: Annotate Your Thoughts

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Insert Your Life Story Here
During a recent fraternity meeting, a longstanding member praised the current administration for its hard work, dedication, and productivity. He then followed the compliment with a recommendation. We need to do better job with our communication skills. 

I could not argue the point because it was true. Chapter members are not made aware of news and announcements until the very last minute. Unfortunately, this lack of planning and subsequent communication has a negative effect on participation. 

In my personal life, I am often rightly accused of not providing fair warning before I do something. As an example, I might decide to watch a movie. Instead of involving others in my decision, I simply grab my keys, wallet, and I'm out the door. 

The clear disadvantage of this game plan is that I often go to the movies alone. Without prior notice, friends and family are not ready to drop what they are doing to attend. In business, dropping changes without notice can easily frustrate customers or hinder the excitement associated with new products and services.

The Cleveland Community Church (C3) in Clayton, NC serves as a great example of what I should do. Each week, the church uses its resources to spread the word about upcoming campaigns, speaker series, outreach programs, or other special events. I have seen announcements post as far as 6-8 weeks in advance. 

In order to post announcements about an activity six weeks in advance, one has to be well organized and ready to share ideas. Clearly, this is an area where I could use a little help.

In the following section, I share three tips that I plan to adopt in order to strengthen my communication.

3 Tips To Strengthen Communication Skills

Annotate thoughts
A respected businessman, fraternity brother, mentor, and friend once told me that a good presenter, for example, follows a specific recipe of success. He broke it down into three parts:
  1. Tell your audience what you are going to say.
  2. Say it!
  3. Remind your audience what you just said.
As it pertains to bettering my communication skills, the recipe described above lays out how I should approach the sharing of ideas, plans, and thoughts with others. Specifically, it means that from the very beginning, I need to tell others about my plans before I actually do it. Then, once I expressed my plans, I will take the opportunity to remind friends, family, coworkers, and customers about what will eventually take place. 

Use social media
Many times, when I have a new idea, I should use sites like Twitter and Facebook to quickly get the message out of my head and into minds of others. For more substantial explanations, those longer than 140 characters, I can use my blog or newsletter.

Thankfully, I am equipped with a mobile device that can update both Twitter and Facebook. Assuming my audience is online, social media is winning beginning.

There are, at times, people and places where social media does little good. Take for example, friends and family that never check their email or failed to secure a Twitter account. In this case, I may need to revert back to the trusted snail mail, telephone calls, or lunch appointments. Personally, these are definitely good options to keep, even with technology.

Start early
Whatever the message, form of delivery, or person targeted, I really need to start early. Much of my personal and professional issues are related to procrastination. Instead of taking the time to plan ahead or share information as soon as possible, I wait on it. Waiting steals other people's opportunity to make educated decisions.

One way to help organize my thoughts is through the use of a calendar. By putting the activity on the calendar, I have a deadline by which to focus. 

Conclusion
Overall, getting better with communication means revealing information more often so that others can participate. It means starting early and using those tools that help deliver the message, even if it means using something other than Twitter.

If you're like me, and have discovered another solution, I would love to hear about it. Are you one that has to deal with people like me? If so, how would you recommend we get better? Let's talk about communication in the comment section below.

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