There’s no doubt about it. If you can successfully express yourself on paper and in person, you will be perceived as smarter, friendlier and more persuasive than your less articulate peers. Simply consider two people competing for a job or a piece of business. The candidate who communicates more effectively will win every time, even if he is less qualified.
In marketing, the way you present your business is critical, whether you are meeting prospects in person or you’re reaching out online. So don’t let poor communication ruin an opportunity or damage your credibility! Here are seven common communication mistakes to avoid when writing or speaking so you’ll keep that stellar reputation of yours intact.
1. Lack of a goal
Many people create an outline for a presentation or start writing without first thinking about what they want to accomplish with the communications piece. Before you prepare your content, write one sentence – no more than 25 words – that clarifies your purpose. Return to this sentence when you find yourself drifting from it.
2. Failure to consider the audience
The communicator who forgets her audience will never relay her message successfully. Assessing who will be reading your content or listening to your presentation is critical. This knowledge will lead to enhanced connections with the people you most want to reach.
3. Absence of a compelling message
You must have something substantive to say. Even if you know your audience and relate to them personally, you will fail if you don’t provide a clear point of view, a Call-to-Action or useful information. Work to bring the necessary balance of substance and style to your communications.
4. Ineffective language
Many writers and speakers mistakenly believe that puffing up their language when they communicate will make them sound more professional or knowledgeable. But the best language is simple and clear. Write and speak as you normally do in professional situations. After you write something, read it aloud to listen to how it sounds. When giving a presentation, speak to the audience as you would if you were having a one-on-one conversation.
5. Muddled delivery
You may have a clear goal, great message and sufficient audience knowledge, but if the communication is not presented in an appealing way, it will fail. In writing, delivery involves making the piece as readable as possible. Use bullets, bolded words, sufficient space between paragraphs and visual elements to entice readers. Avoid excessively long words and paragraphs. When speaking, delivery is enhanced with the proper use of voice, posture, gestures, visuals, movement and audience interaction.
6. No personality
I recently had a colleague review a proposal I was sending to a client. She called me to say that while the proposal said everything it needed to say, she couldn’t hear ‘‘me’’ in the piece at all. I revised the proposal to give it some warmth and a more personal tone and delivered a more effective piece. Don’t be afraid to let yourself shine through in your writing and speaking. Even the best message cannot be successfully conveyed without a human touch. Use stories, real-life examples and humor to bring yourself into your work and enhance your connection with audiences.
7. Failure to rewrite or rework a piece
The rewrite is a key part of preparing a communications piece. After you write something, take the time to review it. Delete extraneous information, tighten up sentence structures and strengthen any weak words. For presentations, leave time to rehearse a couple of days ahead of time. You’ll hear things that don’t sound right or think of things to add. Any communications piece that is put through this revision stage will be more successful.
Though overcoming these pitfalls requires investing more time and energy into each communications project, it will make all the difference in your marketing. Your audience will thank you for it!
Content from this post was originally published in the MetroWest Daily News and has been updated to reflect current best practices.