I used to inadvertently frustrate other people with my verbosity.
A client would ask me a question, and I would give them a 10 sentence background, because I assumed this would be helpful.
“Why do I have 3 printers when there are only 6 staff?” was a question posed to me on my first office setup project by the country manager.
I immediately launched into a technical description of the features of the printers. A cliche but common mistake.
What I failed to realise back then, is distilled to it’s most base level, he is simply asking “Are you wasting my money here?”
A perfect, succinct response would have been :
“The fax/copier/printer/scanner is for faxing and scanning. Otherwise, it becomes a dangerous single point of failure. The black and white is for daily printing since it’s cheaper than colour. These printers also support your staff growth forecasts.”
He would have nodded his head, and walked away satisfied about his investment, and feeling better about me as a consultant.
Instead, I was half-way through a long explanation about something he didn’t care about, and my monologue was not addressing his core concern.
After enduring a few roastings, my sense of self-preservation set-in, and I began actively seeking to respond to the core issue. This improved my relationship with my clients, and built trust since I was communicating directly to their questions or concerns.
The most gifted communicators I’ve seen over the years are masters of this. There is an incredible amount of power in being able to process a large amount of information, and being able to succinctly communicate complex concepts in a simple fashion.
I had a tendency built up over years in IT to make the point fuzzier to try to cover every possible scenario. This wall of ‘fuzzy’ can give you a buffer of error. It’s comforting, but it’s a safety blanket barrier between you and the point.
Client : “Will this USB drive be compatible with my 4 year old Dell computer?”
X “Well, most of the time USB drives use a standard set of drivers, so even without drivers you should be able to use it. If you try to plug it in and you get an error, there might be a problem with the drive. Or maybe, you might be using an older operating system, which might not have drivers for that drive. If theres an error, I recommend checking the manufacture website to see if you can download suitable drivers.”
Client : “Are you able to provide project management services?”
X “Well, it depends on the type of project. We don’t do much software project management, of course, but we’ve got much more experience in doing things like IT infrastructure projects, or server projects. We’re pretty skilled at most kinds of projects for a wide range of company sizes. We can manage general office IT projects.”
O “We’re experts on IT infrastructure and new office and office move projects.”
Throw away the fuzziness.
Harness the power of simple and direct communication. Don’t make people wait through a speech. Get to the point first.