The Key to Effective Business Communication: Why Lengthy PPTs Are Out

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There are few things more mind-numbing than drawn-out business PowerPoint (aka PPT) presentations. Yet for everything from company announcements to client pitches, we continue to use PPT to deliver our message, even though it’s far from an effective business communication method.  

We were taught that lengthy PPT presentations were thorough and necessary to fully exhaust a topic and leave our audience with no unanswered questions. But somewhere along the way, we kept answering questions our audience wasn’t asking and confusing the people we hoped to inspire. And we dulled our audience’s senses in the process.

Effective business communication is far from boring. In fact, it’s memorable and engaging. It captivates and inspires your audience to act. 

We realize it can be challenging to communicate effectively, especially when a lot is at stake in business dealings, marketing, and even internal meetings. To help you improve your business communication, we will outline proven methods in this article to replace dry, less-than-impacting words with inspiring messaging. 

Let’s go!

Why the Traditional Approach to Business Communication Doesn’t Work


Before discussing how to excel at business communication, let’s dive into some of the communication problems we see regularly when it comes to PPT and why they matter to your organization. 

It’s Not Memorable.

Text, bullets, and jargon—these are elements that PPT is known for, but your audience will never remember. 

Add to that multiple slides with the same font and bullets accompanied by a non-stimulating topic, and you can understand why most listeners don’t fully absorb the information presented.

Even Amazon agrees. CEO Jeff Bezos banned PowerPoint in their meetings and replaced them with narrative memos. Bullets seldom inspire, but stories do. Our brains recall pictures and stories much better than bullets. They help us retain information more than text on a slide. We’ll talk more about storytelling later in this article. 

It Lowers Productivity.

Businesses spend more time perfecting bullets and fonts than discovering how to better connect with their audience and inspire them to take action. Investing more time into perfecting a slide than figuring out how to inspire an audience will lower productivity and prevent the right message from coming across. 

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Your Audience Can’t Grasp Complex Topics.

The simplistic slide format of PPT presentations makes it challenging for your audience to grasp complex topics. Complex topics require a deeper understanding of the subject matter. However, bullets and hard-to-read graphs on a slide can rarely get the job done. 

Your Messaging Is Confusing.

With average attention spans now at only about five minutes, it’s essential to find ways to engage your audience so they stay fixated on your messaging longer. 

The problem is that when you confuse people, they lose attention quickly—likely much quicker than five minutes. The more cluttered your presentation and slides, the more diluted your narrative. 

Remember that it’s not about impressing your audience. If you’re trying to impress, you won’t connect. The key is to make your business communication memorable, which typically happens when you’re more focused on your audience’s needs than scoring high marks on a great presentation. 

We’ve discussed some problems with business communication and what makes it ineffective. In the next section, we’ll discuss the principles of effective business communication and touch on how to present memorable topics that impact your audience. 

5 Principles of Effective Business Communication and Audience Engagement

Below, we outline five principles of effective business communication. Note that these tips can apply to internal (employees, teams) and external (marketing, sales presentations, target audience) business messaging. 

1. Establish a Controlling Idea.

Ineffective business communication can sometimes be chaotic and lack cohesion around one main idea. As we already pointed out, cluttered and chaotic communication leads to a confused audience. 

Businesses that focus on one controlling idea in their marketing campaigns or product ideas develop smarter strategies that get results. 

What is a controlling idea?

It’s your WHY; it’s the one common thread that everything points back to and the point you’re trying to make. Ultimately, it’s the thing that all aspects of your communication will attempt to prove true.   

Whether in marketing or business presentations to employees and clients, effective business communication focuses on one controlling idea. It explains the WHY and is the consistent theme throughout. 

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In marketing, establishing your WHY draws the right people to your business and turns away those not interested in what you’re selling. In other business communication, focusing your presentation on one controlling idea keeps your messaging concise and focused, and prevents confusion.  

2. Engage in Storytelling and Encourage Narrative Transportation.

Older businesswoman holding a marker next to a flip board while team members smile on.

Humans love stories. We’re internally wired to connect with stories. And in return, we provide trust and empathy to the people telling them.

The key to effective business communication then is getting your audience emotionally connected with you via storytelling. When this happens, your audience is said to be experiencing narrative transportation, which is so powerful that it can produce behavioral and attitudinal changes.

Stories make you relatable and believable and help your audience get connected. When they're connected, they will pay attention for as long as they're captivated. We talk more about this in our article on narrative transportation in marketing.

Below are some storytelling tips that power effective business communication:

3. Introduce Questions That Focus on the Problem.

How do you keep your audience engaged? Ask questions. But not just any questions. They have to pique interest and force minds to engage and stay focused.

To engage your audience, ask questions that focus on the problem they want to be solved. Your business communication must prioritize your audience’s needs because they will listen intently and remember your message when they feel connected. 

Asking questions gets your audience involved in the conversation and makes them feel more valued. Make your business communication a two-way street (if applicable) and watch how much more engaged your audience becomes. 

4. Show Your Audience What’s at Stake.

Give your audience a hook to keep them engaged. One way to do this is to highlight what they stand to lose if they don’t act on what you’re saying. 

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Think of it this way… If you’re giving a speech on how to stop smoking, it wouldn’t be effective without listing the dangers of smoking long term, would it? 

This is an effective marketing technique because it helps your audience envision life without your product. If you convince them well, they won’t want to live without it. It’s a little FOMO (fear of missing out) mixed with brand integrity that helps your audience stay engaged and take inspired action. 

5. Bring Clarity and Inspire.

Your messaging needs clarity to stick. Messages that stick will resonate and inspire action. 

Clarity inspires people to ask questions to get more acquainted with your messaging. When people are clear on your messaging, it means you successfully presented your material and kept your message cohesive and focused.

We discussed establishing a controlling idea. One of the other reasons this is critical is that it brings clarity to your business communication and makes your messaging easy to understand and grasp. 

Effective Business Communication: What You Need to Know

Whether you’re communicating organizational changes to employees or marketing a product to a new audience, the information we provided can be used to improve any type of business communication. Replace your PPT slides and outdated marketing copy with inspiring, story-driven, audience-focused messaging that compels your audience to take your desired action.

How?

By implementing the five principles of effective business communication that apply to internal and external business messaging. 

  1. Establish a controlling idea.
  2. Engage in storytelling and encourage narrative transportation.
  3. Introduce questions that focus on the problem.
  4. Show your audience what’s at stake.
  5. Bring clarity and inspire.

How strong is your marketing communication? If you want to find out, take advantage of our FREE 20-Point Marketing Audit and Review. Get a full website review, an examination of your social media, an evaluation of your messaging and branding, and more!

 


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Filed Under: Business Tips, Leadership & Company Culture

About Shannon Kegerries

Shannon’s deep desire to help others is a trait that was developed early on, as she has always enjoyed seeing people, groups, organizations, companies, and families thrive and make positive changes that encourage growth in all areas. That combined with her love of learning is what drove her to earn her master’s degree in psychology and counseling from Pittsburg State University in Kansas. For more than 15 years, Shannon worked in a variety of settings as a behavioral, family, young adult, and group therapist. As a behavioral therapist and case manager who has worked with people from nearly all walks of life, Shannon has a knack for helping others reach their desired outcomes, which she applies to her work at Viral Solutions as a content marketer. In addition to possessing keen insight into what drives human behavior, Shannon strives to find various ways in which she can relay each client’s message and vision to their prospect so that it hits every angle and sinks into the prospect’s mind. Likening her role to that of a detective, Shannon enjoys gathering information about each client’s prospect and competitor, then fitting it all together with the client’s product/service as the answer to the problem. She is a StoryBrand Certified Guide.

When she’s not working, Shannon enjoys reading, skiing, painting, and spending time with her family.