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Turn Your Message Right-Side Up: 5 Steps to Communicating a Clear and Concise Message

By on July 21, 2014

How many times have you communicated a message where your listener misunderstands, doesn’t take action on your recommendation or does the opposite of your recommendation?

You may also be able to relate to an interaction where your message did not come out the way you had planned. It’s that very moment when you wish you could put the words back into your mouth. It’s the moment when you wish you had said one thing or hadn’t said another.

There are three types of conversations you will always deliver. The conversation you
prepare, deliver or wish that you had given.

These are all examples of communicating messages that are upside-down rather than right-side up. When your message is right-side up, your message comes across as clear, concise and to the point. Your words, transitions and takeaways resonate with your listener. As a result, your listener hears, understands and is more likely to be influenced by you.

As much as we believe we are communicating clear and concise messages, the proof is in the level of influence you have. Are your listeners engaged when you communicate or are they answering email and text messages? Are your listeners interrupting you or are they engaged and hanging onto your every word?

If your answer to these questions is “no” or you want to make sure that every message you communicate is heard, understood and acted upon, begin today by following these five surefire ways to turn your message right-side up:

1. K.N.O.W. your listeners. Always prepare with a quick listener analysis. K.N.O.W. will guarantee that your message resonates with your listeners.
K – What do your listeners know about your topic?
N – What do your listeners need to know to take the action you want them to take in the time you have with them?
O – What are your listeners’ opinions on your topic?
W – Who are they?
Even on the occasions when you don’t have time to prepare, you can adapt your message on the fly by following K.N.O.W. to make sure your message answers these questions:
“Why would my listener want to listen to my topic?”
“Why is my topic important to my listener?”
“Why is this conversation happening now?”

2. Ask for clarification. When in doubt, check in with your listener to make sure they are still with you. What questions do they have? Notice that I did not say, “Do you have any questions?” By asking open-ended questions, your listeners are more likely to interact with you and give you clarification on what they know. When your listener has a look of uncertainty or confusion, check in with them to understand where they need clarification.

Ask your listener to paraphrase back to you their takeaways. This is a powerful step to take in identifying how they’re interpreting your message.

3. Bullet Points. Replace run-on sentences with short bullet-point sentences. One of the mistakes we make as communicators is that we frustrate our listeners by saying too much. Your listener doesn’t need to hear about everything you know in a 30-minute conversation. They only need to know what information will influence them to take action. When you think and speak in bullet points, you are able to determine on the fly what is REALLY important given the time frame and your listener’s knowledge level.

4. Increase interaction. Get your listeners involved by increasing their experience with you. Be unique, transparent and authentic by personalizing your message. Peppering S.PA.R.K.’s throughout your message will create an experience for your listener that will increase their understanding of your message and their buy-in to be influenced by you.
S – Tell stories that have a point that relates to your listeners’ personal experiences. Be careful not to get carried away. Tell your stories in 30 seconds or less.
P – We’ve heard that a picture is worth a thousand words. Show a picture that represents your idea or recommendation. The more creative the picture, the more impact your message will have.
A – Increase your listeners’ understanding of complex ideas through analogies. The most impactful analogies provide a compare-and-contrast of your complex idea to an idea or concept your listener can relate to.
R – Share a reference that increases your listeners’ understanding of the points you want them to understand and remember.
> Quotes – When you can share a quote that provides deeper meaning to your key takeaways, your listeners will remember your points longer.
> Questions – Open-ended questions are an immediate way to check your listeners’ experience and knowledge level.
K – Keep them laughing. Who doesn’t enjoy a good belly laugh? Maybe your story, analogy or quote is funny. Better yet, maybe you have a sense of humour that brings a lighter flair to a complicated subject.

Communicating a message does not guarantee that our listeners hear and understand what we want them to. We need to work hard before, during and after a conversation to make sure our message is clear and concise. If our message comes across as if it’s upside-down, why bother?


Stacey Hanke is the founder and communication expert of Stacey Hanke Inc. In her book, Yes You Can!, she reveals practical and immediate skills and techniques to enhance verbal skills that will influence others. She is currently working on her second book about influence. Stacey helps individuals eliminate the static that plagues communicative delivery to persuade, sell, influence and effectively communicate face-to-face with a clear message. Learn more about Stacey at

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