Thursday April 16, 2015
Communication is broader and faster than ever before; and to effectively engage your audience you need to have clarity and purpose. However, achieving this is not always easy. This got me thinking about a powerful tool which I use to help deliver more impactful communications. Lists.
Lists are not a new thing - they have been widely used for centuries to convey information in a succinct, accessible and digestible format. Shaun Usher in his anthology, featuring lists from Einstein to Marilyn Monroe, describes lists as ‘the shorthand for what really matters to us’ and in ‘20/20 : 20 great lists by 20 outstanding business thinkers’, editor David Woods states: ‘People love lists...lists are what help us navigate our work and personal lives’.
In recent times there have been many great examples of lists driving success - Buzzfeed has built a business out of them and Amol Rajan, Editor of The Independent, has credited lists with changing his life and says that ‘some of the most impressive people that I have met are list-makers’.
Sam Leith, writing for the Financial Times, discusses enumeratio (using numbered points) for effective communication. He says ‘it makes an argument appear brisk, business-like, targeted. It implies structure and analytic purpose. And if people know there are three key points they will find it easier to remember them.’
For me, when used effectively, lists add value by signposting and saving time; as a busy person, I am a big advocate too.
Here are my three top tips for using lists in effective communication:
- Use bullet-point lists in proposals and briefs – re-read your document before sharing and see if any key paragraphs (especially long and wordy ones) can be replaced by succinct bullet-points to better capture the reader’s attention.
- Summarise your message using a ‘top 3’ – at the Purple Palace we end the working week by everyone communicating their top 3 achievements/‘FYIs’ to the business (larger organisations might want to do this on a team/departmental basis). It ends the weeks on a high and keeps everyone up to speed.
- Avoid getting too carried away though…being too list orientated in verbal communication can come across as formulaic and dispassionate – think about your audience, tone and the message you want to convey. Context is everything.