Much of success in business comes from what you do--your planning and behavior. But the way you communicate is the other half of the equation. The better you are at getting a clear message across in appropriate ways to the right people at the right time, the better others are able to understand your goals and take initiative on your behalf.
Brad Hoover, CEO at Grammarly, says there are five basic tips anyone can use to be a better communicator, regardless of whether the person you're talking to is across the room or across the world.
1. Know your communication goals.
The first part of this is defining the goal you have with your message and making sure that your audience knows what that goal is.
"Are you trying to activate, coordinate, inform, brainstorm or something else?" Hoover prompts. "It will help you to structure your communication and set expectations for your audience accordingly."
The second part is to know what the audience's goal is.
"Think about what value they would hope to get from you," says Hoover.
2. Structure your thoughts.
Hoover says that the classic who, what, why, when and where of a story doesn't just apply to journalism ledes. You should be outlining your story this way in your daily communication, too. This helps you consider both flow and what's most critical for the audience to know, which keeps the message concise and easier to understand.
Once you've got a grasp of what the most essential information is, anticipate what objections the audience could have. Planning appropriate responses to those protests can make your message more influential.
3. Know your audience.
"We talk to more people around the world than ever before," says Hoover, "So you must learn to adapt to your audience. Why is this information important to them? What context do or don't they already have? How technical should the message be?"
Hoover stresses that empathy--that is, being able to understand somebody else's experience by imagining yourself in their situation--is absolutely key. It's what allows you to understand what context they need to receive your message best. There isn't any shortcut to gaining it, however. You simply have to get out, interact and spend time with them, and to expose yourself to experiences similar to those they've had.
4. Consider the medium.
There are dozens of communication platforms and options out there now, but the only right one, according to Hoover, is the one that genuinely supports the goals you identified in Step 1.
"For example, if you want to brainstorm an idea, it requires a medium for instant feedback, such as an in-person meeting. However, if you need to inform people about a project update, using email is an effective medium for your colleagues who don't have time for a meeting."
Ideally, you'll lean back on your understanding of your audience here and pick a medium they're most comfortable with. As an example, Hoover points out that, according to Pew Research Center, even though 90 percent of millennials own smartphones, they actually don't like talking on them and instead prefer written communications.
5. Leverage technology tools
Hoover asserts that technology has changed how we communicate. Social platforms, such as LinkedIn, for instance, can help you connect to and learn from others through direct messages or joining focus groups. But technology also has improved what we communicate. Tools like Grammarly, for example, can use algorithms to give you real-time guidance on your message to ensure it's clear and effective. The more specific you are about the communication goal and the audience that needs to receive it, the easier it will be to know which tech tools to turn to at any given time.
Collectively, Hoover's tips center around being more organized and conscientious through the communication process. You should be able to make mindful decisions as you go and grab resources to maximize both reach and influence. Couple that with a willingness to collaborate and get feedback when you can and you've got a recipe for your words to make a powerful difference.