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Communicate concisely

If we communicate consistently, but we don’t communicate concisely, we will lose our partners and team members. There is just TOO much information that comes our way every day for us to filter through three paragraph long emails (or more!) or hour-long conversations about a topic that could have been covered in 30 minutes.  None of us have “extra” time, and since we are often working with people who volunteer (even as professionals) to be on our workgroups or teams, being concise is definitely a communication virtue!

I recently crafted an email asking for feedback from one of my teams and included lots of details. We hadn’t met in a while (this seems to be a pattern for me this year! See my post from last week if you haven’ t yet on consistent communication) so I wanted to give them all of the context and story behind why I was asking what I was asking. Thankfully, before hitting send, I had one of my colleagues look at the email. She recommended removing most of what I had written and focusing on three specific “yes” or “no” questions.  This was a great recommendation. I was able to send the email and get a really good response from my team members. Then, I was able to follow-up more specifically with each area more in-depth. I re-learned an important lesson on the importance of being concise in my communication with teams.

Join me this week as I provide 3 ways you can be more concise in your communication.

  1. Prioritize one or two key items. When you would like feedback from your team, it can be tempting to overwhelm them with questions about many different topics in order to  just send one email or host one meeting. However, when you overwhelm them, you will lose them! They will not fully read your email, probably won’t respond to it and they will zone out during your meeting and start focusing on other things. We recently co-hosted a statewide meeting with a very full agenda. On paper, it looked possible; however, at the meeting, we struggled to be on time all day long, didn’t have a chance for good discussion and more than half of the participants left early.  While people appreciated the content and were excited about the speakers, they wanted more time to ask questions and get clear on action steps. If we would have prioritized our content to one or two – or even three items, we would have had a better opportunity for engagement, discussion and action on those topics.
  2. Keep it simple. This is particularly true if you are sending an email. We are all bombarded with emails and many of them have requests in them. If we write two paragraphs and then provide our “ask” it may get lost and they won’t make it to your request. If you are sending an email, try to be as concise as possible.
    • Consider using bullet points.
    • Put your question(s) in bold or italics font.
    • Stay focused on your topic of interest.
    • Eliminate attachments (if possible). I have discovered that a lot of people will not open attachments (especially if they are responding to email on their phones) and if there is a way to be clear with the message without an attachment, do it!
  3. Shorten your meetings. We used to host four (or five) hour long meetings with our coalition. While some people enjoyed having that much time to get together, many coalition members were either arriving late, leaving early or not attending at all. We needed to prioritize and consider the essential topics that needed to be discussed during our in-person meetings. If something was more of an “update” rather than a conversation or discussion, we decided to send it (concisely) via email rather than taking up meeting time. Also, rather than always scheduling a one-hour meeting (video chat/conference call), think about what you need to accomplish and see if it can be done in 30 minutes or 45 minutes. Again, we are all very busy people, and if we are able to be concise and accomplish what needs to happen in less than an hour, then do that!

So what about you?  What can you do to be more concise in your communication this week?

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