What is one of the biggest ways to demonstrate that you are ready for a promotion or bigger opportunities? Show that you can think strategically. How often do you take advantage of everyday opportunities do so? Although you may not realize it, you have a chance to communicate your strategic perspective every time you speak at a meeting or deliver a presentation. Use these tips to take your communication up a notch.
Reinforce the Big Picture
First, make sure others "connect the dots" to the bigger picture. In other words, help them understand the "why" behind everything you say and do. As you prepare for a meeting or presentation, think about how the topic you will discuss relates to broader business strategies, goals or priorities. Even if the connection seems obvious to you, remember that people may not be stopping to reflect about it. So take a moment to frame your ideas and thoughts in a way that makes the linkage for others.
Many leaders think that they have to demonstrate in great detail that they have done their homework or socialized ideas with the right people before they share their conclusions or recommendations. They think that if they convey all the steps they took, others will recognize that their ideas are solid. In concept, this is true, but the way people often do this can have the opposite effect. For example, in a meeting, the leader may come across as lost in the weeds or failing to understand the audience or the strategic issues at hand.
To keep this from happening, I coach leaders to start with the "headlines" (the two or three key messages they want others to leave with) and then share any supporting information as needed. The audience can always ask for more details. But if they are inundated with details right out of the gate, they will probably tune out before the leader gets to the most critical messages.
Keep it Short and Sweet
Whatever your message, keep it concise. Using too many words can confuse or bore your audience. Bryan A. Garner puts it this way in "HBR Guide to Better Business Writing": "Wordiness can exist on many levels, from rambling statements to unnecessary repetition to verbose expressions that could be replaced by shorter, sharper alternatives." When you curb wordiness in your presentations, you make it easier for others to understand and apply your ideas, Garner says. Take time to boil your messages down to the most important takeaways.
Focus on Continuous Improvement
Finally, take time to understand how you’re coming across, and use that information to continue to hone your communication skills. If you want to go one step further, pick up a copy of "Communicating with Impact” which is part of my Leadership EDGE SeriesSM.