Summary: Simply Said: Communicating Better at Work and Beyond by Jay Sullivan
Summary: Simply Said: Communicating Better at Work and Beyond by Jay Sullivan

Summary: Simply Said: Communicating Better at Work and Beyond by Jay Sullivan

Keep It Short

Read the following aloud:

  • Everyone’s active participation in the bank’s events is crucial to helping us develop a conscious and cohesive firm culture that we can all be proud of and that will help us attract high-quality associates.

Now, turn your head away from the paper and repeat the statement you just read. How much of it were you able to recall?

Now try the same with the next sentence:

  • We hope to see you at as many firm functions as possible.

You are probably able to repeat that sentence easily because the message stands on its own. 

Save the “why” and the details for separate sentences.

Give your audience a simple concept to grasp first. Imagine someone saying:

  • You may want to consider bringing closure to this issue in the near future before the economic situation changes drastically enough that the fundamental reasons for structuring the deal as we have envisioned it no longer exist.

By the time the speaker finishes that sentence, the audience has forgotten the key message. It’s simply too much for a listener to digest in one gulp. But what if he says:

  • We need to close the deal soon.

The statement immediately becomes clear and direct.


The Informative Format

When you want someone to know something, follow the informative presentation format

  1. Tell them what you’re going to tell them.
  2. Tell them what you’ve got.
  3. Tell them what you’ve just told them

The informative format is helpful to people, whether in your writing or when giving a presentation, because it’s repetitive. The repetition drives home the key ideas


The Persuasive Format

Some people think they are more persuasive if they slap the word “Obviously” at the start of the sentence. Obviously, we need to close the deal soon. That approach doesn’t make us more persuasive; it makes us obnoxious. If you want to be more persuasive, focus on what’s in it for your audience.

State a Problem:  Sales are down sharply compared to this time last year. We’re here today to share marketing’s new strategy for increasing sales.

Use Statistics: We have the largest restructuring practice in the country.

Ask Rhetorical Questions: We’re here today because you are all relatively new to an accounting role. So why is it important to follow GAAP procedures?

The Recommendation: We need to have a team on the ground in Asia. We will need four people based in Hong Kong or Singapore in the next 18 months. One should be a transplant from our other operations. The other three should be professionals already in the market there.

The Benefits: If we have people on the ground in Asia, we will be better able to: Save on travel. Expand our brand. Reach deeper into a growing market.

Prove the Benefits: Last year members of our team logged 1,600 hours of travel time going to and from Asia, and that’s just the time spent in the air. It doesn’t account for the hours packing up, getting to and from airports, and down-time before flights. In addition, we incurred over $150,000 in travel expenses, only 50 percent of which were covered by clients. Add to that the….

Summarize: So, if we build a team in Asia, we will save on travel, expand our brand, and grow our business.

Tell Next Steps: Assuming you approve this recommendation by the end of the week, we will get the ball rolling next week. I will reach out to the three people who have expressed interest in relocating. Susan will immediately start sourcing…


Delivering From Notes

When delivering from notes, you want to be both organized AND conversational.

No manager ever said, “Please, come in my office and ramble.”

List only what you need. Your notes carry all of the burden of remembering the content so you don’t have to. List only what you need so you don’t trip yourself up.

Talk straight ahead. Don’t talk on the way down. Don’t talk to your notes. Don’t talk on the way up. All sound is delivered to a pair of eyes.

See it. Save it. Say it. First, look down in silence and read the anchor word phrase to yourself. Next, look up and find a pair of eyes on which to focus. Then, say the anchor words in a sentence or a phrase. Make sure you say the words you wrote down. You are trying to prompt your memory about what you want to say. When you look down, you read the words. Then you look up and say the words. When you say the words aloud, your brain hears the words. You’ve now read it, said it, and heard it. That’s all the prompting your brain needs; your content will come flooding back.

Use your hands. Use the desk as a stage and put objects in the space in front of you. The more you use clear, definitive gestures, the more likely it is that your voice will hit particular words harder, which increases the energy of your talk.


Delivering From Visuals

When you start speaking in front of the room, you want to set the right tone with your audience. Smile. Look like you want to be there. Even if you’re sharing difficult news with the group, your facial expression and body language should convey: “I’m glad to be here to help you work through this issue.” Here’s the main concept behind effectively using visuals.

Tell people what they are looking at before you tell them why they’re looking at it.

Read every word to your audience. Given much conventional wisdom about how to use slides, this next piece of advice may sound counterintuitive. However, we believe firmly that it makes the most sense. If you have words on your slides, read every word to your audience. The trick to being effective is in the way you read the slide. When you hit the button you implicitly told your audience: “Look at this new piece of information.” You now have three options:

  1. You can stand silently while everyone reads your slide. This would be, at best, awkward, and at worst, a painstakingly slow delivery.
  2. You can do what most people do, which is talk generally about the information on the slide or give your big conclusion about what’s on the slide. Here’s why this doesn’t work. When you show the slide, everyone is trying to read it. If you say anything other than what is on the slide when it first appears, the audience is seeing one thing—the words on the slide—and hearing something else—your main point or introduction of the content you are about to share. Either way, they can’t hear what you are saying because they are reading the slide. 
  3. Read verbatim what is on the slide. It reinforces what audiences see, and therefore helps them process the content. If you do this well, and as outlined below, your audience will be grateful.

Here’s how to make reading your slides work well for everyone. Slides with up to three bullets: Read the heading and all three bullets. Go back to the heading. Re-read it and comment on it. Do the same with each of the three bullets.

Slides with more than three bullets: Read the heading and the bullets one at a time, commenting after each.

You look smart in front of the room based on everything you say that isn’t on the slide.

See it. Save it. Say it. Applying this method when delivering from slides takes more practice than learning to apply the method when you use notes. Nevertheless, the method is the same:

  • See it—look at your slide in silence.
  • Save it—remember what the bullet point says.
  • Say it—make eye contact with one individual in the audience as you state the bullet point verbatim.

Here’s how to deliver graphs and charts. To deliver graphs and charts, apply the same approach as when you deliver slides with bullet points. Tell audience members what they are looking at before sharing why they are looking at it. For slides with bullets, that means “read and comment.” For graphs or charts, that means “preview and explain.” Preview what they are observing, and then explain the key points


Responding to Questions

There’s a four-step process to responding to questions:

  1. Listen to the entire question.
  2. Gain time to think.
  3. Answer and reaffirm your main point.
  4. Ask for the next question.
Thinking Time Technique 1: Repeat or Rephrase the Question
  • Question: “How are we doing on the project timeline?”
  • Full repeat but as a statement: “How we are doing on the timeline.”
Thinking Time Technique 2: Use a “Lead-in”

Typical basic lead-ins include:

  • “Great question.”
  • “Interesting point.”
  • “I’m glad you asked that.”

More sophisticated lead-ins incorporate the content of the question:

  • “It’s great that you’re concerned about timing.”
  • “The cost is a key element here that we need to address.”
  • “Why is this initiative so important to you?”
  • “I’m glad you raised the issue of priority. We’ve been discussing that you want to improve the group’s efficiency. If we get started on this initiative now, we’ll have a better chance of accomplishing your goal.”


Respond to Emotion

Follow a three-part structure when you handle emotion:

  1. Acknowledge
  2. Relate
  3. Transition and answer
  • Acknowledge: “I know you’re concerned about this issue.”
  • Relate: “I too have felt that way.”
  • Transition: “Would it be helpful to you if we. . . .”, “Do you want to see our analysis of the situation next Tuesday or next Thursday?”