My Advice to Anyone Communicating Anything.

A little known fact about me: I love the study of communication! I actually have a minor in communication – well not technically, but I have the education required to have gotten a minor in communication. This post is written to everyone who has something to say to other people. Whether your medium is twitter, blogs, books, music, print material, images, videos, public speaking, broadcast, or WHATEVER — if you feel like you have something worth saying, this post is for you. In this post, when I refer to “message,” I’m talking about whatever it is that you have to say. It may be “why people should donate to your group” or “why we should buy your product.” For many of us, our “message” is the life changing message of Jesus, which is why this is so important to me.

Myth: As long as I get my valuable message “out there” (typed, posted, mailed, published, whatever), it doesn’t matter how excellent it is. The people who want to hear my message will find my message and will diligently work to understand it regardless of the excellence.

This is absolute bull – at least for our fast-paced consumeristic society. If you remember one thing in this post, remember this: DETAILS MATTER! Let me prove it.

Do you live by the above myth? I doubt it. In fact, I bet that several of you have already scrolled down to see how long this post actually is to decide if you want to keep reading (keep going, it could change your life). Consider this example: if you find two websites or books with the same information – but one looks janky and the other looks professional, which one will you choose? Obviously, you’ll choose the more professional looking one (even if the janky one has BETTER information or service, you’ll never know it). The truth is, in our society, we do judge a book by its cover. We just DO. You can deny it and fight it all you want – but it’s the truth and until you accept it your effectiveness as a communicator will be hindered. This “details matter” philosophy trickles down into everything. Let me give a few examples, only some of which are hypothetical:

To the musician: So you think you have an important message or feeling to share through the art of music? Great, but remember that your excellence matters. Your lyrics could very well be life-altering, but if you sing out of tune the whole time or have a lousy mix, I’m going to stop listening. I will never get to your message unless you package it with excellence. (This is a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT THING than singing worship to God; that’s not what I’m talking about).

To the wordsmith: If you can’t bother to proof-read your message to ensure that you’ve fixed blatant typos (“Your” welcome to attend . . . ), undefined acronyms, insensitive colloquialisms, and major spelling errors (“chruch”) — DON’T BOTHER SENDING IT. Your message may very well be important, but in our world, people aren’t going to read past your laziness. Of course we all make mistakes like a misplaced comma or something, but I’m surprised at how often I see an OBVIOUS mistake. Sometimes I want to say, “Did you even read what you wrote?” Author, if you don’t bother to read what you wrote – why should I?

I have a brilliant friend who had written a great message in a word processing program. When he posts in Facebook, however, the line returns get all screwed up and he can’t seem to get it right (not his fault). He expressed his frustration with this malfunction and one of his subscribers said, “Don’t worry about how the page is set up. If someone is truly interested in the message, the set up makes no difference.” I disagree. If you have an important message, do you only want those who are willing to “suffer through” your message to hear it? Or do you want to make your message so clear, precise, and captivating that anyone who reads the first paragraph stays interested? Kudos to my friend for caring about the details.

To the videographer/vlogger: I’m going to be honest about myself here, but I doubt I’m the only one who feels this way. When I click “play” to watch your video, the FIRST thing I look at is the length of the video. If its longer than 60 seconds, I’ll give you about 15 seconds to spark my interest before I stop watching. The exception is if I have a reason to be watching it.

Also, if you ever export your final video without watching what you’ve done to see how it communicates to you, you are being lazy. I’ve seen some horrendous transitions and some massive spelling errors that make me want to say to the creator, “Did you even watch what you did?” If you’re not willing to, why should I?

Concluding Thoughts
If you put together your message but do not even give consideration for your “audience’s” experience, stop wasting your time. Just because you “got your message out there” does not mean that anyone cares, or even that anyone will receive it. Face it – we are a shallow people who never get past the “cover” of a book without a judgment.

Should it be that way? No, of course not. But it is. That’s just reality, unfortunate as it is. Until you accept that, your communication will be hindered. With the massive influx of information, only the best presented will be looked at (we can’t read everything!)

Having a good message is only step one. Step two is “sending” your message. Do it with excellence. Be proud of the way you communicate. Try to eliminate errors. Do your best to make sure your message is easily understood (not confusing). Do not assume people are LOOKING to hear what you have to say, demonstrate to them why your message is important. In other words, take your message to your audience in a way that is easy for them to get and is attractive. If you spend 30 minutes putting your “message” together, you probably need to spend double that making sure it’s packaged effectively.

By the way, before this post went live I personally reviewed and edited it 11 times, not to mention having someone else review it. When I read what I wrote, I often saw an error or a better way to communicate my idea. When I changed something – I always reviewed it again until there were no more changes to be made. I wrote this in about an hour, but I spent at least two making sure it was excellent. I worked until I was proud of what I had done.

19 Replies to “My Advice to Anyone Communicating Anything.”

  1. Excellent work on “excellence,” Adam. Proud to be associated with you. You have a level of maturity in understanding the important things that make good leaders, better, even the best!

  2. Thanks Adam. Well said. I too think it is very important to think about how your audience is going to take in what you are showing them. The written word isn’t what I use to express myself but I do use images, live drama and video to express myself on a regular basis. I am always thinking… how is this going to come across? I don’t think we can be effective without that thought. What’s the point if we aren’t thinking of what the impact will be. A question I ask of myself often is, Who is my audience? What do I want them to know?

    Sometimes we are too close to our message. I need to step back and view it through others eyes and ask for feedback. This isn’t always easy but it improves my work everytime.

  3. Adam,

    Another timely and excellent reminder to all who seek to communicate anything. In a day of text messaging I tend to get somewhat annoyed when I get emails that look like texts.

    Context matters. When I taught English Composition to preachers and aspiring pastor-teachers I was brutal on excellence in research, expositional writing and finally communication. By the time the course was over, they knew how to write an excellent essay examination (dissect the components of the question and flesh it out), to do research in order to plan, prepare, practice and present the findings in a well organized fashion expositonally and orally. Also they needed to be prepared to defend what they wrote about in the classroom. Outside of teaching the Bible and theology English Composition was one of my favorite courses to teach.

    In a day of such shallow research for sermon preparation, rampant plagiarism in the pulpit (for nearly five years all I heard was a “revelation that God gave me” that was straight out of the Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible, or the Max Lucado Study Bible), character and integrity in communication is tops on my list, because it shows character and integrity in the heart of the communicator.

    Thanks again Adam for another thoughtful post.

    Bruce

  4. Excellent post Adam! One of my pet peeves is reading grammatical errors. I know this is bad, but subconsciously, I lose a bit of respect for a person if they don’t spell correctly or if they use the wrong spelling of a word (their, there, etc.). I try to offer grace because I know I’m not perfect, but you’re right-it shows laziness and not caring when something is not done in excellence…even a fb post. Now, after rereading this comment and making one correction, I hope I haven’t missed any misspellings or grammatical errors… ;o)

  5. I agree totally with doing what we do with excellence. But just to be funny, I actually have trouble with my email as my program is set to spell check in some foreign language so spell check in English doesn’t work. I hate this but just don’t understand the technology to fix this. It’s not that I’m lazy, sometimes a person might not have the resources or understanding to do it better. No disagreement from me on the original blog.

  6. ^^I try to be very sensitive to common mistakes or a lack of resources that someone might have. Seriously I do. What I’m talking about is BLATENT ERRORS that would be fixed simply if they re-read it.

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