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How you communicate is important

I spent the weekend camping with 50 Scouts (from 6-year-old Joeys to 17-year-old Venturers). We had a lot of fun, completed many activities and came home exhausted!

With such a diverse age range, not to mention the range of personalities and other abilities, it could be challenging to keep them all involved and engaged.

Change how you present a message

Making the weekend work was a good example of adjusting your communications to suit the audience.

As leaders, we could have said lets learn how to cook in a fire and use a compass. Instead, fitting with our Harry Potter theme, we created choc-orange cauldrons and searched for the Philosophers Stone.

When a little more time was needed to prepare something, I could have asked the kids to wait patiently or run across the oval to burn energy. Instead I said “Sarah and Wil, see if you can run across to the tower and back before anyone can catch you”. They all ran off, had fun and didn’t notice the delay for preparation.

Scout camp sorting hat communicated groups

Communicating via sorting hat

The best example, however, was putting the Scouts into groups for the weekend. Any other time, we might just read out a list of names and leave it at that. This time, each scout was called up to greet the sorting hat and have it decide on their group. Yes it took longer but there were no complaints nor restless kids as they loved the process.

HOW we presented the activities and our messages was important in making the weekend a success – the WHAT was important too but would have been less effective on its own.

Applied to business

A Harry Potter theme and changing ordinary activities into those with exciting names won’t help in most business situations. But the concept of adjusting a message to suit the situation is perfect for anyone, including businesses and websites.

You have a key message you want people to hear, so you may as well present your message in a way that maximises how many people will listen to it.

There are many ways to adjust your presentation, but here are a few to get you started:

  • put it as a question rather than a statement
  • add some humour
  • choose the words and tone to suit – perhaps more formal or casual, simple words or more sophisticated vocabulary
  • use a short and to-the-point version on Twitter but a friendly and more questioning version in Facebook
  • can the background be livened up to catch interest? For example, I’ve printed flyers on blue paper rather than white to put into conference goodie bags

Of course, to tailor your message effectively, you need to understand your audience. On camp, we knew we were talking to active 6 to 17 year-olds who wanted to have fun and be involved. Our techniques wouldn’t have worked so well if we’d had 50 4-year-olds or a group of business men on a team building exercise.

So how well do you know the target audience for your business? Well enough to adjust your message to suit? Well enough to tailor your message for different segments of your audience (e.g. those on Twitter compared to those attending a workshop)?

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