Friday, April 10, 2015

Communicating With Clarity

By Guest Blogger Mark Vickers
© leesawatwong

OSH professionals sometimes lament the fact that “my boss [or my workers] just doesn’t get it.” Could it be that you are overwhelming your audience with information but under-messaging them.

When it comes to spoken communications, planning and preparation allow you to deliver a message more effectively, increasing the likelihood that others will respond as desired. When approaching any conversation or presentation, consider the four keys to developing clarity: substance, simplicity, structure, speed.


Focusing on substance requires an intentional effort to identify the key message and its essential elements. Ask yourself:
  1. What is the single most important message I want them to hear?
  2. What are the most important details I need to share?
  3. What do I want them to remember?
  4. What action do I want them to take?
  5. What can I say or ask that will help them take action?
  6. What story could I share to illustrate benefits?
These questions help you identify the most important substance of your presentation and form a strategic outline. While contemplating substance, you will likely encounter a degree of ego impact. But remember, people don’t care about everything you have to say. That's why you need to continually ask, “Who cares?” By removing elements that the listener doesn’t care about, you will begin to create truly powerful messages using fewer words.


Next ask yourself, “How can I deliver this in the most simplistic manner possible?” Keep in mind that when you are presenting, others are:
  • listening to you;
  • processing the information;
  • thinking about the information and what it means to them;
  • watching you;
  • distracted by their surroundings;
  • feeling their cell phone vibrating;
  • thinking about other things they need to do.
Given the level of thought and distraction occurring within the mind of your listeners, the more straightforward your message, the higher the probability it will stick with them. As you develop your message:
  • Use simple terminology, avoiding buzzwords and jargon.
  • Use shorter, more concise sentences.
  • Use a short story to illustrate a point.
The intent of simplicity is not to talk down to people but to present a message that is easy to understand, interpret and act on. Remind yourself that “fewer words = more message.”


Once clear on the key message and wording, develop the structure of the presentation. Key areas include rapport building, opening, information gathering, information sharing, story structure and placement, and closing/call to action.

You may fear you will become bored with structured presentations. When this occurs, remind yourself that the presentation is not about you; it is about the people to whom you are talking, their needs and helping them move forward.


It’s now time to deliver the presentation. Be sure to use vocal variety (tone, volume, speed) to keep the audience engaged and to emphasize critical points. Here are a few steps to help you be more intentional about using speed to create greater impact:

  1. Record yourself speaking normally to determine your baseline speed, tone and volume.
  2. Highlight points that you are excited about and practice saying those at a faster rate and slightly higher tone of voice to convey excitement.
  3. Highlight important points, and practice slowing down and lowering your tone to convey importance.
  4. Practice using pauses to allow listeners to connect to key points and think about their impact.

Initially, changing speaking patterns will feel awkward and uncomfortable. Continue practicing and recording. As you listen to the recordings, consider the power of the message your audience will hear. You will begin to realize that the improved vocal variety is improving your message.

Mark A. Vickers is a communications consultant focused on helping individuals and organizations achieve excellence through improved communication and speaking skills. Learn more at