My family always plays games on Christmas Day and one of our favourites is Charades. Not only do we find it massively amusing, but the person who is up front generally gets so bemused and frustrated at why their simple label cannot be guessed in such a relatively short time-frame, especially considering all the clues they are giving.

And like many of us, we know what we are conveying yet wonder how something so simple, complete with our own clues and instructions, cannot be understood by those we are working with.

Many of us have also heard the phrase ‘once you’ve seen it, you can’t un-see it’ perfectly portrayed in this optical illusion that went crazy on the internet begging the question as to how can her legs be so shiny or, once using peripheral vision, realising they, in fact, have been painted. You now can’t un-see it!

Shiny Legs

‘When we learn something, we can’t not know it again’ and that leads us to not remember what it was like not knowing it. In addition to that, the longer we know something, the more we assume other people already know what we know.

This is referred to as ‘The Curse of Knowledge’ and can ruin any form of idea transfer.

I am an avid learner and like you, none of us can unlearn what we learn, so therefore our empathy or patience for those who don’t know what we know, is unconsciously lessened. This is a huge learning curve for many who present, teach, coach, market and most of all, sell.

When we share our insights, teach some new idea or demonstrate a new product, we can’t just launch straight into it purely because we know about it, nor can we use our jargon or industry speak, nor even assume the complexities around what we are discussing are going to be understood – no matter the intelligence of the people around the table.

We need to frame what we are going to share, and just like building up a joke and leading to the punchline, we also need to stage our ideation.

How we stage the transfer of any idea, marketing message or benefits of any new product, can be helped by executing the following ideas:

  1. Know your audience and their level of knowledge or understanding through clarification, discovery or qualification questions. Some know more than others but you need to know what they do and don’t know and what their expectations are.
  2. Share how your idea came about, provide a bit of history and reasoning, so that your readers or audience or customers can put what you are about to say into context allowing them to receive the idea or information in a simple way that they know what to do with it once you are done.
  3. Be aware that when they nod their head, they may not be agreeing or even understanding what you are saying. Instead, they might just be someone who is acknowledging that they have heard you. If you don’t check in, you run the risk of losing them, and because the majority of people don’t want to be seen as not ‘getting it’, they will never let you know and therefore won’t do anything with that information.
  4. Tell stories and create meaning around your ideas because we know that stories tap into our emotions and sell and putting ideas into context helps us make sense of things.
  5.  Bring in concrete examples such as case studies, customer testimonials and proof statements because they provide an even more relevant and relatable level of understanding around your ideas and teachings.
  6.  Use simple language or lay terms. I remember hearing a story about a company who were going through a bit of strife and the executive group gathered in the board room to nut it out. At the end of this session that had so deeply entrenched themselves into strategies and tactics with highfalutin ideas and inflated rhetoric around ‘maximising return to shareholder’and ‘holding market position’ MBA jargon, that they had lost sight of what they were trying to communicate. When the new hire sitting at the table was asked what he took away from his initial strategy meeting, his answer was simple, ‘I’m guessing you want us to kick the competition’s ass’. Sometimes, keeping things simple will create more cut through than any convoluted industry speak or highly contagious assumption – just because you know it.

It’s not necessarily a case of ‘dumbing down’ the ideas that you want to convey – it’s about not assuming your audience know what you know. It’s about making sure your language, words and instructions are memorable, meaningful and emotional, yet conveyed in simple to understand, concrete terms, unlike this 1776 speaking Charade example.

My first makes all nature appear of one face; At the next we find music, and beauty and grace; And, if this Charade is most easily read, I think that the third shou’d be thrown at my head.

[The answer is “snow-ball.”]

It’s so easy to, and yet so important you don’t, fall victim to this curse because the last thing you want is for people to be second guessing you, your message or your game-plan, either – for their sake and yours!

Be Bold, Brave and Brilliant

The Science of Strategy - What Steve Jobs and I Have in Common

Bernadette McClelland is CEO of 3 Red Folders – a modern day saleswoman and keynote speaker on business growth, personal leadership and sales performance.

BIO: Business environments wanting to increase their revenue and profits, and differentiate themselves in a competitive market, ask for Bernadette McClelland because of her thought leadership on sales performance, her ideas on thinking beyond resilience and her fresh perspectives surrounding personal leadership skills — all designed to master the outcomes that matter.

Bernadette has proudly coached Harvard MBA students on their sales enablement curriculum, been the Master Asia Pacific coach for Anthony Robbins across twelve countries, authored five books on leadership and sales transformation, won a coveted Telstra award for Business Excellence, and continually shares her ideas around behaviour, the brain and business growth on stages in the UK, Europe, Thailand, India, NZ, Australia and North America.

Believing that sales performance is a leadership issue, you will also find her heading Melbourne’s human potential based sales performance consultancy, 3 Red Folders, as she navigates lead generation, message to market and digs deep into sales process activities with her clients in the mid-tier sector as well as founding ‘Women Who Sell’, an initiative designed to bring more women up to speed in their sales success.

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Image Courtesy of Faustin Tuyambaze

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