I’m not really sure how old my children are – I’ve kind of lost track in all the commotion.
But they don’t live with us anymore, so I’m guessing that they are adults.
Unfortunately, and while I try not to take it personally, not one of the three lives in the same time zone as my wife and me. In fact, none of them live in the same time zone as each other.
We’ve got Pacific, Mountain, Central and Eastern represented.
In terms of degree of difficulty, arranging a family Zoom call is only slightly more complicated than assembling a piece of IKEA furniture. Blindfolded.
And so, a couple of weeks ago, having not seen any of our offspring since February, Linda and I decided to meet our son Evan in Lewisburg, West Virginia, a location that is precisely halfway between he in Memphis and us in Boston.
We went for a week, rented part of a house, and had a great, mostly outdoor, time.
Lewisburg is a fun, friendly town, filled with lots of history and, as I discovered on our first day, some curious signage.
One sign, at the entrance to a parking lot, read, “Do Not Enter. Entrance Only.” I stood there for quite some time, wondering which way to move.
The second, on a theatre marquee, read, “Closed Until We Open.” This sign somehow managed to be exceedingly vague and extremely precise at the same time.
Who put these up? I have no idea. Nor do I know if they were attempting to be funny or had simply hit the humor bullseye by accident.
Either way, from a strict “communication” standpoint – which I hope you’d agree, is a sign’s main purpose in life – they were not very effective.
You Communication Needs to Be Clear
Regardless of what kind of work you do – legal, financial, consulting, coaching, writing, etc. – finding and obtaining the people and companies who will pay you to do it, is an exercise in communication.
If your words are clear and on target, people are sent your way or come on their own, and (often) hire you.
If they are not, and regardless of how smart, experienced, credentialed, or (in my case) good-looking you may be, they don’t.
All of which means that the words you use need to be well-chosen. Here are two suggestions in that regard.
#1. Pinpoint your audience.
No matter the professional service you sell, it’s not “people” who hire you – it’s individual humans. And they do so one at a time.
The narrower and more precise you can be when communicating, the easier it is for those individuals to hear you.
I understand, speaking broadly means more potential listeners. But widening your audience is a direct trade-off with having a meaningful impact.
A newsletter written to “bald marketing consultants named Michael,” may have a small readership. But among those who fit the description, there will be much more enthusiasm and interest (hint: enthusiastic, interested people are the ones who become clients).
#2. Pinpoint your purpose.
One of my standard questions when working with a client to write something or modify something they’ve already written is, “What is this about?”
It’s a simple question.
But if you ever need to silence a Zoom call full of otherwise talkative professionals, this is the phrase to use. It’s like a blank stare ray gun.
The thing is, and again, as obvious as it seems, unless you know what you are trying to communicate and why, you’ll invariably end up with a bunch of nobody-cares, business-speak blah blah.
I don’t start writing until we develop a clear and concise answer to this essential question.
Here’s the bottom line.
There’s a big difference between writing or saying words, and writing or saying words that influence your intended audience as you desire.
Whether it’s a sign in a parking lot, or a critical business communication, words matter.
- Have you ever assembled a piece of IKEA furniture?
- If you had a magic ray gun, what would it be able to do?
- Do you have a favorite “odd” sign that you’ve seen?