Crafting Effective Communication: It’s MORE than “Just the Facts” Ma’am

iStock_000004478678_MediumAuthor Curtis O. Fletcher

As communicators we want nothing more than to move our audience to action, consideration, or change. We do what we do because some collection of truths, experiences, or circumstances has moved us. The way in which we choose to articulate our passion and pass it along is central to how effectively our audience receives the information.

Imagine with me two different scenes:

Scene 1

The year is 1970. Disco hasn’t quite made it’s appearance on the scene yet but like a foul smell on the breeze it is coming. Plaid shirts and corduroy pants with widely flared legs are quite the style. You make your way through the doors of the New Bank of My Town to transfer your account, the dulcet tones of the Girl from Ipanema playing softly in the background. Within moments, your transaction complete, you stroll back out the door, smiling, with a brand new toaster under your arm!

Scene 2

It’s your birthday! You wake up hoping that folks will remember but not quite ready to wear a sign on your chest announcing the importance of the day. You arrive at work and find an envelope on your desk. Inside is a card directing you to the break room. You smile to yourself thinking someone has gathered the crew together for coffee and donuts but when you get to the break room you find…another card. The process repeats itself several times. Each clue leading you somewhere else in the building until finally one leads you back out to your car! Curiously surprised you notice a wrapped present on the front seat. You climb in and eagerly tear open the wrapping to find a toaster and a note. “Please come join me for breakfast. Happy Birthday!”

In either case you get a toaster. Cool, you needed a toaster. So what’s the difference? The process of receiving.

Too often as communicators we get in a hurry to deliver the goods. Like the bank that gives away the free toaster we give our audience exactly what they expect. While this may be appropriate in some settings allow me to suggest three reasons our communication should more often resemble the birthday toaster than a bank toaster.

1. The joy of discovery

People, in general, like surprises, especially pleasant ones. Whether we’re giving a speech, a sermon, or a product presentation audiences like those moments of surprise when they get more than they anticipated getting at the start. Surprise draws them in and entices them to follow.

2. The appreciation of elegance

Folks recognize when you’ve taken the time and made the effort. Even the simple difference between tossing a birthday present into someone’s lap unwrapped and presenting a well wrapped package catches peoples attention. It communicates that you care enough about the recipient to make the presentation part of the gift rather than just doing your duty. Even if you can’t wait to give them their present they’ll appreciate the time and attention you took in the wrapping of it.

3. The effect of effort

If I walk into the bank expecting a toaster and get what I expect I critically examine the toaster to see if it matches my expectations. If, on the other hand, I get a surprise gift I am moved by the surprise and look at the toaster from an attitude of continued discovery to see what it has to offer. Your audience will respond to your communication in the same way. Either with a critical eye to see if you’re delivering on the promise you dumped out in the agenda, introduction, hand-out etc. OR with an eye towards discovering what you’re offering in a carefully crafted surprise package.

Whether you’re giving a speech, preaching a sermon, or writing a blog post don’t just dump it in their lap. Take the time to wrap the gift so that your audience can experience the joy of discovery and the appreciation of elegance. You will see the effect of your efforts. They’ll get the toaster either way but they’ll be moved by the surprise in a way that makes them appreciate you every time they make toast. 

How can you make your communications more like a wrapped present that surprises and delights? 

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Curtis is a speaker, coach, and grandiose pontificator who regularly consults with large organizations on topics ranging from customer experience to the Internet of Things. He has a passion for helping people create wow moments for their audiences and customers. When he is not coaching someone in communications or marketing he can often be found preparing for his next half marathon, something he finds terribly perplexing.

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2 thoughts on “Crafting Effective Communication: It’s MORE than “Just the Facts” Ma’am

  1. I love the element of surprise!

    When I read your post, one word came to mind: Variety.

    For me, one of the most exciting ways to spice things up is to use different approaches to introductions. I might open with a question, a story, a powerful quote or excerpt.

    As you said, “…take time to wrap the gift…”

    Excellent post!