Today I welcome author Rhys Keller onto my blog, who shares his advice for effective communication for writers and public speakers.
Big thanks to Rhys for being today’s guest poster, please make sure to check out his links and details at the end of this post.
Effective communication for writers and public speakers is not a mystical force held only by the upper echelons of entertainers. Everyone can learn to improve their communication skills, including you.
That’s why you’re here. You know you can do better but you’re not quite sure how. Improvement in communicating more effectively happens in the nuances. It happens in the little details that make up the whole.
It happens at the foundational level of your figurative house, which represents your message.Writing and speaking well begins in planning and ends in projection. Curious how you could improve? Read on!
As in other areas of life, just because we’re born with the ability to write and talk doesn’t mean we know how to best write and talk.
It’s a craft that we can develop ourselves in. I used to wonder why Public Speaking was a college course. How hard could it be, right?
I soon found out just how wrong I was when countless eyeballs were piercing my soul and weighing the words from my lips. I stuttered. I uhm’ed. I forgot. I talked fast. I talked too long.
In short, I was developing my communication skills with practical application. I still am and so are you.
Intent is the Foundation
To set ourselves up in the best possible way, it’s vital we begin in planning. While working on a draft, albeit a technical document,picture book manuscript, or high-society speech, we must begin with intent.
Intent is all about you and why you’re about to write or say whatever it is you are about to write or say. Ask yourself (and then answer) these intent questions:
- Who is my intended audience for this material?
- When my intended audience receives this material, what do I hope they will think, feel, or do?
- What do I get out of giving this message? What does it mean to me to be able to share it with others?
- What method am I planning on using to share this material? Will I share these thoughts in writing or verbally? Is this method best for this material? Could I share it in multiple ways?
- Is the material I’m about to share been shared similarly by other people? Have I reviewed this existing material to improve, supplement, or support my material? Does any material exist that contradicts what I’m about to share? Are those contradictions valid or can I share my material in such a way to address those contradictions?
- What will this message mean for my reputation and how can I ensure it is ultimately beneficial for me and others rather than hurtful?
Getting into the Head of our Audience
Once we firmly establish our intent behind our message, we must dive deep into the mind of our intended audience.
Let’s say we’re writing a picture book manuscript that wewill send to literary agents or publishers for traditional publishing.
Who is our intended audience?
That’s a trick question, unfortunately. Our ultimate intended audience is a child with potentially limited reading ability.
The child will primarily be looking at our book’s pictures while listening to someone else read the story out loud to them. Before we reach the ultimate intended audience however, we must navigate the plethora of gate keepers.
Often the first gate keeper of the story will be critique partners, referred to as CPs in the #WritingCommunity.
These critique partners will receive our message through their lens and offer feedback, suggestions, fixes, and sometimes concerns that either propel our story or stop it dead in its tracks.
The second gate keeper could be a literary agent, or worse, an assistant to the literary agent where our literary agent query is reviewed against company guidelines or industry standards. They will look at our query and ask questions like the following:
- Is this idea/plot/message overdone?
- Does the author have a grasp of punctuation and grammar rules?
- Would I champion this type of material or is it better suited for someone else?
- Has the author researched our agency, my client list, and the industry at large?
- Does the author have any credentials for writing this type of material?
- Has the author been published before? If so, have they been successful? If not, am I interested in representing a debut author?
- Has the author written appropriate for the [ultimately] intended audience? I.e. is their word count and word selection appropriate for industry norms?
- How much work does this manuscript need and do I have that much time to devote to it?
The third primary gate keeper along the path to traditional publishing could be the publishing house acquisition editor.
This person then needs to believe so much in the manuscript and often the author and agent behind the manuscript, that they willingly descend into the publishing depths to fight for it.
They’ve got to convince a plethora of people, teams, and departments that the investment in the material is worthwhile. These other people at a publishing house or literary agency are secondary gate keepers. They can support or derail our manuscript’s success.
Now, let’s go back. Why bring all of this up? We knew our ultimate intended audience is a child. It is a picture book after all. Yet, we must communicate our intent in such a way as to effectively capture the support of primary and secondary gate keepers.
Here’s what that means. Our picture book manuscript must be grammatically correct. Punctuation must be spot on, even if the illustrator plans to turn commas into trees and periods into basketballs.
The initial literary agent query must be informative, concise, and captivating. Our reputation must be commendable when primary and secondary gate keepers research us.
The message itself must be engaging, entertaining, and/or enlightening. And lastly, we must be willing to persevere and be patient through the process to not be our own biggest roadblock.
Identifying each of our potential audience members and considering what their value system is, what they may be looking for, and how they may think or feel about our message is crucial to our success in effective communication.
Tips for Effective Communication
All this may seem overly complicated or too much to be mindful of on every single project. It doesn’t need to be. Thankfully, the most effective communication for writers and public speakers can be boiled down to a few simple ingredients.
- Express yourself rather than trying to come across like someone else.
- Care about your audience before you see your audience. Your intentions to help or entertain them will come across in a powerful way.
- Spend the time necessary to truly invest in your message or subject matter. If you hate the thought of researching it, learning more about it, or spending one more iota working on it, the feeling will come across loud and clear in your writing or speaking. An audience wants to read and hear from people who believe the message to be valuable.
- Many professionals think they need to be experts with the perfect answer to every question. This simply isn’t necessary. The most admirable speakers and authors have a great deal of humility about them. They’ll tell you they are still nervous in front of crowds or they still struggle coming up with the right words and sentences. We admire these honest people and can identify with them. Connecting with our audience is all about connecting with a person.
Does effective communication come across naturally to you? Do you have any tips to share for us to communicate more effectively? We would love to hear from you in the comments below.
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Rhys Keller is an American Author and Professional Engineer who specializes in communication strategies for building personal and professional brands.
Connect with him on Twitter @Rhys_Keller
This post was written by a guest writer. Please check out their details above. If you would like to be a guest contributor on this blog, check out my Interested in Guest Posting page for details on how you can share your advice or do an author interview.