Effective communication is an important element of business for businesspeople in any industry, any location or of any size. Today's business communicators are both blessed and cursed by an ever-expanding array of communication options to choose from. Despite the new tools, the challenges of effective communication remain the same. Effective communication requires a solid understanding of the audience, the ability to convey information clearly and convincingly, the ability to listen and openness to constructive feedback.
Understanding the audience
To communicate effectively, businesspeople must understand their audience. Based on their communication goal or message, they should understand the audience's current mindset, opinions and level of awareness or understanding. It is also important to note the audience's preferred mode of communication (face-to-face, telephone, email) and any potential misconceptions, barriers or hidden agendas with the audience. Rather than going into a communication situation with the goal of conveying the message that they wish to convey, effective communicators consider their communication challenge from the audience perspective.
Conveying information clearly
The ability to get information across to an audience clearly and succinctly is an important element of effective communication. Effective communicators know what they want to say, they get to the point and they take advantage of multiple methods of communication. For instance, a business leader may make a presentation to an audience, use visual aids to support that presentation, provide a handout that summarizes key points and follow-up with an email after the presentation.
The ability to listen
Communicating effectively isn't all about how well we make our points, although that is often the approach we take. Effective communicators are exceptional listeners. As Stephen Covey suggested, they "seek first to understand." They consider the opinions, beliefs and concerns of the intended audience and give them an opportunity to share those thoughts. They listen attentively, asking for clarification as needed and avoiding the temptation to break in with their own thoughts and ideas.
Openness to constructive feedback
Effective communication requires continuous improvement and that means being open to feedback from others. Importantly, business communicators should seek to use the tools that their audience is most comfortable with and to communicate at times and in places that the audience prefers. Asking for feedback after a communication about how well the message was delivered and what might be improved during the next interaction or presentation can be a good way to ensure continuous improvement and effective communication in a variety of settings.