Say More by Talking Less: How to Cut Through the Noise on Remote Teams
Seinfeld once tackled the problem of “close-talkers,” people who stand too close to you when they make conversation. Well, in this blog, I’d like to take on what I call “over-talkers”.
Be direct, organized, avoid adjectives and adverbs, and stick to the point for best results.
When you’re working remotely, as more and more of us are these days, you don’t want to spend a lot of time fishing for a fact in a sea of verbiage. You want to get on with what you have to do as do most home workers. But some people want to really test your attention span to the max, by sending you an email, text or voicemail that takes WAY too much time to ask a simple question or describe a small problem. By the time you figure out what their point is, you look at the clock and realize you missed lunch.
It’s hard to do much about over-talkers without hurting their feelings (but The New York Times has some suggestions if you’re interested). But it’s easy to make sure you’re not guilty of being one yourself. When you’re communicating with people online, particularly if they’re busy, just don’t add a lot of gobbledygook. Be direct, organized, avoid adjectives and adverbs, and stick to the point for best results.
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Whatever method you’re using for delivering messages and content (reports, status, meeting minutes, emails, etc.), don’t spend a lot of time trying to be the next Shakespeare. Nobody needs overwritten, flowery language. Everyone just wants to get down to brass tacks so they can move on with their work. Consider gifting everyone on your team the best guide on succinct communications ever written, “The Elements of Style”, by William Strunk, Jr.
Avoid the Data Dump
This also extends to how you disseminate data and information. Whether it’s project reporting, data analysis, status reports, or whatever, you want to make it easy for people to understand the bottom line quickly, especially since you’re communicating virtually. Bosses really appreciate this effort, because they don’t want to wade through a lot of superfluous numbers to get to the ones they want.
When learning how to be heard on virtual calls, I suggest the billboard analogy — imagine that, to make your point, you only have the time it takes for someone to drive past a billboard and absorb its message. With that in mind, think about how to simplify your message down to its core, put that front and center, and make it visually engaging. If you can catch their attention, they’ll note it and keep it in mind. Put your focus on selling ideas and telling compelling stories. Summarize the key takeaways and give them something to latch onto.
Summarize the key takeaways and give the audience something to latch onto.
Don’t overdo it on the data unless you’re trying to bury something nasty under all the numbers. You’re always able to attach additional back-up for them to review if they want.
Data visualization becomes much more important when you’re working remotely. Be simple, succinct and visual when possible. Also expect the information to be forwarded — so make it something your own grandmother would understand.