5 ways to ensure your messages are remembered
“What’s the point of being smart if nobody understands what you have to say?”
Charlie Gilkey, Business coach
It’s one thing knowing what you want to say but ensuring someone has understood the same message and that they remember it, is another one entirely. The reality is that its not all about what you want to tell the audience. You need to tune into what they want to know and then you can position your message so they want to listen.
Here are five reminders when communicating face-to-face but if you need more help then contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- Know your audience
Step one – understand who you are speaking with. On a one-to-one basis, ask questions and listen actively to understand the person’s current understanding. Do they have preferences for facts and figures or prefer broader concepts? Are they more introverted reflectors, who prefer to digest information first, or extroverts who are comfortable responding on the spot. Wherever possible, do your homework before you meet people.
At larger events, think about what would have motivated people to attend. The audience will have a range of different communication preferences – auditory, kinaesthetic or visual. Find ways to appeal to these different types in what you say and how you present. For example, you can be visually animated when speaking or use single images to bring things to life. Visual does not mean using lots of slides (in fact, please don’t!). Ask the audience questions that may give you some clues as to how to focus your discussion.
- Make them meaningful
Once you know a little more about your audience you can tailor your message in a meaningful way but take this one step further beyond relevancy. Use stories and draw out examples from the audience to create a level of emotional meaning. Create connections to what you are saying at a deeper level to help your message to stick.
- Keep them simple
It’s fairly obvious that the simpler the message, the better it will be understood. Unfortunately many people still use too much jargon, acronyms, long sentences and endless blocks of text. Other people want to impress people with their amazing use of technical or academic phrases. Sadly, this won’t help you to reach a broader audience of people who are may not be in the small club of knowledge to which you belong.
Use sentences of between 10-15 words* and think about how you would explain what you are trying to communicate to a friend who has little knowledge of your subject. This isn’t about ‘dumbing down’ but as Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
- Choose your words carefully
A recent article on lifehack.org stated that your choice of our words can literally change your brain so the words you use to communicate your message are critical to your message getting through. You may have heard of the obvious ones like – change ‘don’t forget’ to ‘remember’ as this has a more positive impact (rather than assuming that someone will forget). The article mentioned above outlines 10 phrases that are said by happy people such as ‘I took your suggestion’ or ‘thank you’.
Try using vivid words that a paint a picture of your idea and draw on the senses to bring elements of taste, smell and feel. Avoid abstract words as the human mind struggles with less concrete messages. Try using relevant metaphors, such as ‘I was lost in a sea of nameless faces.’ In her book Metaphorically Selling, Anne Miller quotes the following figures:
- We remember 20% of what we hear
- We remember 80% of what we hear and see
- When images are vivid, we remember 95%
- What got through?
Ideally you will prepare what you are going to say, particularly when the messages that you want people to understand are important. Share your proposed messages with colleagues and friends. Listen to what they say. Be open to changing what you say and appreciate different perspectives. Check understanding during the actual conversation or presentation. Watch and listen to the reaction from others and ask people what they remember from what you said (without it feeling like a test). You can develop further communications based on what you hear.
*recommended by The Plain English Campaign