Posts Tagged ‘baby boomers’

Until the advent of the telephone, communication was face-to-face (yes, there were letters, telegraph, smoke signals, drums, but here we are covering daily communications between regular people). It was one human being using spoken words to be received by another human’s ears. The important matters of businesses, town councils, and governments took place in meetings, where one not only received information but could also see the emotional state of the person speaking. The telephone changed that somewhat especially when the speakerphone (and later the video camera) was invented. However, people still gathered together in real time and space to discuss matters of importance. Then came text messaging and the internet.

Yes, live meetings became the bane of existence for business people. These meetings got the reputation of time wasters, where you were trapped in a room accomplishing little after spending a good chunk of time getting there. So with the creation of electronic devices accessed through high-speed connections, one can be anywhere on the planet and still participate. Cool, right? That’s if there is a video feed to the equation. Most of the time, people just “text” or “post”. So what you get, in essence, is an electronic letter to read which can be misinterpreted in its meaning. Sorry, but “e-moticons” do not count. As humans we need face-to-face communication not only to discern the speaker’s emotional state but also to be able to immediately ask a question to clarify something confusing.

A prime example of how this faceless communication not occurring in real time can go wrong, was recently when President-elect Trump sent his infamous tweet with the word “Nazi” in it. He knew why he was using that to backup a point of his but did anyone other than historians and Baby Boomers get what he was referring to? No. And since tweeting isn’t “real time” even if someone responded to his tweet asking for clarification, he didn’t have the time to send out another tweet to do so. That hardly happens in real time meetings and we saw this during the press conference when a reporter brought it up and Trump went on to explain himself. Bingo, the entire watching universe understood.

I’m not saying that tweeting or texting should be avoided. We can’t go back to the days before these devices and programs were available. However, like we all learned with the e-mail universe, once you hit the send button it’s out there for better or worse. With faceless communications, we all need to try very hard not to say things in a confusing manner or make references that only a certain portion of the population gets (hmm, like telling an in joke that can backfire on you when most of the listeners don’t get it!) It’s also great that now our chief executive can communicate instantly with the masses. Very few previous Presidents had either the technology or the skill to use it as he does.

Meetings have become the dinosaur of the 21st century and Twitter and Facebook have taken its place. It doesn’t matter if you are the President of the United States, or a 12 year old communicating with her best friend, what you say can become a disastrous opportunity to be misunderstood. Keep the message simple, avoid jargon or historical/political references, and you should be on safer ground as a 21st century communicator.

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Understanding your audience

Using the right words to connect with your audience can mean the difference between your message being on target or failing miserably. It doesn’t matter whether you are writing an e-mail to a friend after a disagreement, drafting a cover letter for a job application, or developing marketing copy for your company, how you write your communication should be driven by your audience.

Public speaking is an area where understanding your audience is paramount to be a successful speaker. Nick Morgan on his blog Public Words has great advice that all communicators should take to heart: “At the heart of great public speaking is understanding your audience. If you don’t know who you’re talking to, you’re not ready to talk to them.” He says, “Understanding your audience means being able to go on a significant emotional journey with them. That’s the only journey worth taking in public speaking.”

If you are trying to motivate the recipient of your message to do something, you better go on that journey with them! Sales letters come to mind where you really need to use the lingo of the person’s industry but from writing website copy to attract visitors, to talking to your teen age son, choosing the words and phrases that resonate with that particular audience can help you better get the results you are looking for.

As you sit poised to pen that important message or have that deal breaking talk, start first by thinking about your audience’s profile. What is their age, which generation do they fit into (baby boomers speak a whole different language from Gen X’s), what are their interests/hot buttons, values that need to be addressed or avoided, their social class (people who join country clubs do not want to be talked to like the kid just graduating from high school!), and what industry lingo you should use or avoid.

In this day of casual e-mail and social networking communications you also might be committing a major blooper if your audience is of the old “formal” school. And if this is a business communication, you can never be wrong by going formal instead of using casual texting language. Your ultimate goal is not to just connect with your audience but to have them understand and relate to your message.

It all boils down to using the words that resonate with your audience’s needs, wants and desires. But you have to come from their “space” or else even if you use the right words, you’ll be perceived as a phony. Or worse yet, as talking down to them.

As the old saying goes, first “walk a mile in their shoes” and research your audience. Then develop a profile of your audience, aiming to use words that will connect. Lastly, add a dash of sincerity.