Communicating more with less

A laugh is the shortest distance between two people

A laugh is the shortest distance between two people

People have many concerns about the impact of social media on the digital generation – younger people who have never known a world without the internet.

Reduction in attention spans and writing skills are just two, and I have to admit I’m a grumpy old git when it comes to language. Poor spelling and grammar, lazy use of jargon, and unexplained acronyms and abbreviations all get my goat.

We live in a world in which we’re increasingly bombarded with information. We crave the time to deal effectively with the deluge, so it may be that the short text, 140-character tweet, and other bite-size bullets (not to be confused with great dollops of bullshit) are part of the answer. And might their brevity make them better communications?

Effective communication is, of course, not only about transmitting a message, but that message needs to be received, registered and (in a marketing context) acted upon. For me, two characteristics of a good communication are that it touches me emotionally and that I remember the content long after – the two are probably closely related.

So what do I remember from the past? Two communications spring to mind…

When, over 40 years ago, I was in my first, impressionable year at university, we had a talk from Sir Huw Weldon who was a big name at the BBC, associated with Monitor – a series of arts programmes for TV. He recounted how he was making a programme about the life of a composer (Elgar I think) and he was unhappy with his commentary. As it got closer to transmission, he was increasingly concerned, then suddenly realised that much of the commentary was unnecessary. He simply replaced it with the composer’s music; making it all the more powerful.

Many years ago I applied for a job with a carers charity and was astonished and moved to learn about the thousands of young carers – school-age children who, when not at school, care for a family member. I didn’t get the job but never forgot about those cleaning, cooking dressing, young carers who were previously invisible to me (and probably most of society)

Fast forward to a dozen years ago when I used to run a training session for charities – Learn to Love your Annual Report – which tried to help them turn often turgid and unreadable documents into interesting and useful promotional tools. One of the samples I used – as an example of a good report – was produced by another carers charity.

On the cover was a simple black and white photo of a young teenager kitted out for some abseiling; he was obviously excited. The only words on the cover were a quote “I wish I could act my age for a change.” It moved me and left a lasting impression.

Next week I have a job interview which includes a 10-minute presentation (fine) without the use of Powerpoint slides (even better – I gave up using slides, other than photos, years ago). Now all I’ve got to do is to KISS (keep it simple stupid) and leave a lasting impression… for the right reasons.

But enough of this blog – I’ve already gone on too long.

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