Over the last 16 years I have been working with people to help them put their words into plain English, however doing this for yourself is much easier said than done.
Speaking or writing in plain English when you have had a long corporate career is hard, really hard, but it is essential to good communication.
The secret is practice. After all, that is why six year olds and grandparents were created isn't it?
If a six year old or your grandparents don't understand what you are saying, you aren't speaking in plain English. You need to rethink how you are speaking, because the likelihood is that everyone else is tuning out as well.
I have spent the last week working on my book and writing brochure copy and I have had to put in very plain English what it is my business does. However, it doesn't stop there, because our language also needs emotion in order to resonate with our audience. And that is the tricky part, especially when you spend your working life removing emotion from so many of your interactions because business is not about emotion. Right?
Wrong. If you read Simon Sinek's book Start with Why you will very quickly realise that our emotions contribute to about 70% of our decision making and our rational side about 30%.
It is critical that when you communicate, you not only speak in plain English, but that you engage with people emotionally. Hearts and minds.
Just listen to union leaders when they speak to the media. They frequently use the term "kick in the guts for workers" and we automatically get what they are saying and all they have done is name a company and put six little words behind it. Job done.
Once I finished my brochure copy I ran it past my five year old son, who just happened to ask me what I do. He now thinks "I help children, by getting them money". This is because I work with a charity that runs early intervention mentoring programs for children in some pretty dire situations.
I've done their communications strategy.
Here are some quick tips to help you simplify your language and get better at communicating:
- Think about what you want to say and how you want people to respond and feel when you say it
- Write down what you want to say
- Take out all jargon
- Say it aloud
- Tweak it to remove the rest of the jargon
- Say it aloud into a recording device (if you have an iPhone use the voice memo) and then listen to it
- Repeat steps 5 and 6 until it feels natural - this could be 30 times
- Test it on someone who knows nothing about what you do
- Take it to market
And if this is still a real challenge, call me. I do this for a living... when I am not helping children get more money.