3 steps to make sure you’ve been heard
Frameworks help support complicated processes and make them a little easier to navigate. Early in your career, they give you a sense of control in new and unnerving situations. Then, later in your career, they stop you from becoming complacent and can be refined with compounding knowledge you’ve picked up over years of experience.
Communication is not something we would usually include in a list of complicated processes we must navigate, but just because we’re doing it all the time certainly doesn’t mean we always do it effectively.
And so, I recommend keeping a selection of communication frameworks in your back pocket. This one is as straightforward to remember as it is to use:
“Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them”
I’ll break it down using the example of hosting a client meeting, but it’s just as effective in other scenarios where you are leading the conversation.
Be clear about the key things to be discussed upfront. Create an agenda, add this to the meeting invite, and email it to everyone in advance. Then, at the start of the meeting, repeat it to kick things off.
When you tell your clients or colleagues what you’re about to say to them, you may feel tempted to hold back on specific points. But this is often a mistake.
There are no prizes for holding back big-hitting agenda points. You might feel proud dropping surprisingly good results on your client meeting, but the truth is that if it’s a meaningful point, you shouldn’t wait to deliver it just because you get a buzz from revealing it. It’ll go much further if you call it out sooner because you’ll give everyone a chance to digest it upfront.
If the point is negative, you might be even more reluctant to share it before the meeting; this would also be wrong. Sharing it ahead of time will allow everyone to think about it and make your meeting more productive (and avoid the dreaded follow-up meeting loop).
Okay, this one is self-explanatory, but don’t let its simplicity fool you. When leading a client meeting, it’s crucial to ensure what you are telling them is being heard.
Don’t rush, take breaks after dropping key points, and be aware that some people won’t speak up if they are not following. So pay attention to body language to gauge if people want you to slow down, and be careful how you prompt people to ask questions. For example, “has everyone understood” subtly asks people to admit their weakness, which many won’t do — the ego is sensitive! Instead, “would you like to stay on this or move on” puts the responsibility on you as the meeting owner to ensure understanding from everyone involved. Much better.
Using tricks like this, along with the fact that everyone knew upfront what topics would be discussed (via your agenda and introduction), means you are a lot more likely to get questions and, as a result, more effective communication.
A good summary is essential to a productive meeting — you will be surprised how often people leave the same discussion with different ideas of what everyone decided.
Wrap up all of the critical points as a spoken summary at the end of the meeting, and follow it up with a written one for good measure; this will reduce any ambiguity between attendees and show everyone how in control and effective you are at hosting meetings.
This framework has loads of benefits. First, it’ll position you as organised and in control — essential traits for your clients/managers/team to see from you.
Secondly, it will make you feel more in control. Whether you feel nervous about meetings or communication in general, this approach will give you a sense of control that should calm some of those nerves.
And whilst I’ve used the example of a client meeting here, the framework elements are equally valuable when writing a long-form email, sharing a difficult update with a client, or giving your team a company update.