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Organize your ideas before you speak

Mapping out your best points

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in Workplace Communication

You already know to think before you speak. But how should you think? Savvy communicators know how to plan mentally what they want to say.

Whether you’re about to deliver a big presentation or you want to get a few points across to someone who’s in a rush, you need to develop a road map to guide your remarks. This way, you strengthen your appeal and maximize the odds that you’ll be understood completely.

A well-organized message carries the listener along on a smooth, gentle ride. By signaling ahead of time where you’re going, others cannot help but follow along.

Begin by devising your goal—a one-sentence overview of what you want to say. It should answer this question: “If I could leave the audience with one central point, what would it be?”

Pay special attention to the action verb that drives your goal. Avoid flat verbs. If you want to educate a colleague on a complex procedure, your goal can be, “To educate/explain/help Jim with the billing procedure.” Choose a more vivid verb and your goal comes to life. Enlighten or demystify might prove more precise, lively verbs than help.

Once you compose a clear, powerful objective, think of the three most important, relevant points to make in support of that goal. Ask yourself, “What are the three most appealing or compelling pieces of support I can think of that will guide my listeners to my goal?”

Now you can diagram your organizational road map as follows:

GOAL:

1.                             

2.

3.

Let’s say you want to persuade your boss to let you try an experiment to generate new business. You figure the three best reasons for your idea are 1) to attract more quality accounts, 2) to capitalize on a new computer system and 3) to increase revenue per employee. Organize what you want to say this way:

GOAL: To convince my boss to let me test my marketing plan.

1. Build business.

2. Harness new system capability.

3. Increase revenue per employee.

Armed with this concise outline, you can express yourself with clarity and force.

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