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The One Thing That Makes You a Better Communicator


by Mark Kretschmar

What are you trying to accomplish?

When every communication starts with an answer to the above question, the odds of success are much higher. Think about it. Without an answer to that question, how would you know if the communication was successful or not? This is the difference between “responding” and “reacting.” That flame-mail you sent was a reaction. If you had asked yourself, “What do I want to accomplish with this e-mail?” you likely would have done it differently.

A classic example

I was recently working with a great non-profit with a program to help people understand what it is like to live in poverty. They handed me their brochure for this event. Before I even looked at it I asked them, “What is your goal? What do you want the people who see this brochure to do?” The answer was simple enough, “We want them to attend the event.”

I then asked the follow up question, “What do you think makes people want to attend the event? What have past participants told you made it worthwhile?” We easily created a list of those motivations.

Now we were ready to examine the brochure which was a letter-sized trifold with lots of copy on every panel. I asked if there was anything in the brochure that talked about those motivations we had just listed. The answer was, “very little.” It was an information brochure that provided much detail on how the simulation worked, but apart from one testimonial sentence, had no motivational content and no calls to action.

It was immediately clear to them that the communication piece they had created was not remotely aligned with what it was supposed to accomplish.

We spent an hour putting together content aligned specifically to the motivations they had identified. Now they had a great start on a communication piece they could fully expect to succeed. They knew what success looked like; they knew what tactics could generate the desired outcome. Now they had a well-defined space into which they could launch their creativity and let it work for them for success.

Make it work

Knowing your goal helps in all communication contexts — whether one-to-one conversation or mass communication, whether coworkers, family members, bosses, direct reports, neighbors — anyone. Next time you have to have an important conversation (perhaps you have teenagers), or you’re creating a promotional or other mass communication piece etc., make sure you know what you’re trying to accomplish. Then ask yourself if you have good reason to think what you have created will accomplish that.


To increase your value by bringing your communication skills up to match your technical skills, contact Mark at mark@engineerspeak.com or 651-728-0352 and check out the helpful, free content on engineerspeak.com.