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Five Strategies To Help You Communicate Better With Your Audience A thoughtful approach to communicating with others will enable you to get the most from them and benefit from their input or expertise.

By Hanna VanKuiken Edited by Tamara Pupic

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There is no shortage of lines of communication in today's work environment. Email, teams, phone calls, Slack, WhatsApp- the list goes on, and communication is constant. But while communication is widely accessible, how effectively are we really communicating with our colleagues, managers, or clients?

We must think about how to improve our communication techniques- to collaborate and build ideas together, and leverage others' expertise. This is how to truly impact business, rather than simply getting caught up in it. To do that, it is essential to think about our individual approach to communication in order to enable collaboration. A thoughtful approach to communicating with others will enable us to get the most from them and benefit from their input or expertise. By strategically approaching our daily interactions, we can ensure that we are truly taking advantage of the knowledge and experience that surrounds us. Here are a few strategies to keep in mind the next time that you need to collaborate with your team or stakeholders, to get the most from them. These strategies focus on putting your audience, those that you are collaborating with, at the center of your approach- to empathize with them, and to create an environment in which they can truly contribute and lend their expertise to making your idea better.

Subjective collaboration or feedback can be dangerous, and it means that you're not truly benefiting from the expertise that you are seeking. Rather, emotion is driving the outcomes. Objectivity means thinking in terms of effectiveness, instead of personal sentiments. To enable an objective response from your audience, think about how to make your idea or proposition concrete, relative, or specific, instead of abstract or theoretical. Use past examples or data to support an idea. Make your idea relatable by using metaphors to describe your proposition or predicted outcome. Classify options or solutions to better collectively assess which to act upon.

Demonstrate your own commitment and contribution to collaboration by thinking about your own point of view, before calling a meeting or consulting a co-worker. This can also provide a springboard for your conversation, as you can first provide a starting idea to react to, and collectively build upon. Share your recommendation, and, most importantly, have a rationale for why you think this way. And then listen to your stakeholders or your team. Consider how multiple options can be used for viable ways forward, and how to use that collaboration to make your approach more considered, holistic, and effective.

Whether consulting with a cross-functional team of experts, or working with clients, when you deliberately listen, you're able to better understand how their past experience informs their current perspective. To take advantage of expertise within your team, it's not enough to just understand what they think, but to listen for why they think that. Listen first. Ask why and how, second. Asking questions to truly understand another point of view will enable you to better comprehend all aspects of the input and build to a more specific solution together. Collaboration doesn't just mean contribution; you must be mindful of the other side of the collaboration equation, and be able to also absorb.

We are all human, and with that, context is everything. It's up to you to think about your audience's context. Perhaps you realize that your audience is distracted with a deadline today, but tomorrow, they will be able to offer more attention to your idea. Or, perhaps, you must speak with a stakeholder who actually knows very little about the need for your new idea or approach. You first must put yourself in your audience's shoes- what is their day like, or what other pressures they might be experiencing. Have they been involved with your type of work before, or do you first need to spend time to bring them up to speed? You want to get your collaborators at their best, so thinking about when that might be is important. Your collaborators should be comfortable with you and the situation in order to deliver undistracted input.

To move ideas and business forward, you must keep your eye on the next step. What are you driving toward? Perhaps there is a tight deadline to meet, or there's further vetting anticipated. Make sure your audience knows what the next step or gate is, so that they can consider that as they input. Set the situation and the next steps at the onset. Before delving into details, tell your audience what you need from them in order to move the work forward. Be specific with what type of feedback or guidance you need, or how you need them to contribute or support the next steps. Once people know what is expected of them, they can more accurately fulfill those expectations. The next time you message your co-worker or have a meeting about the next new business idea, think about if you are setting up the conversation to enable collaboration, and getting the most from your audience. Thoughtful, meaningful communication is just good business.

Related: Why You Need A More Wholesome Communications Strategy To Grow Your Business

Hanna VanKuiken

Business Director, Rapp MENA

Hanna VanKuiken is the Business Director for Rapp MENA, a global advertising agency and creative consultancy. She has over ten years of experience leading teams in branding and design agencies as well as traditional advertising agencies. In the span of her career, she has led work with Proctor and Gamble, Mondelez International, FedEx, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, CA Technologies and MetLife. She is passionate about cross-functional collaboration and breaking down silos in order to achieve business goals and deliver to consumers and buyers in new and innovative ways. Originally from the US, Hanna is currently based in Dubai.

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