Sunday 1 September 2019

M.A.I.N. Framework of Communication

"How do we improve our presentation skills?" / "How do we communicate better?"

These are some of the often-asked question and have many different approaches and answers. When my team started to push me to help them improve their presentations, not only the deck but also their delivery, the M.A.I.N. framework of communication took birth.

M.A.I.N. = Message, Audience, Impact and Next-steps

Through this framework I have tried to bring together a combination of ideas, while maintaining simplicity. Although I started by thinking how my team-members could improve their presentation skills, I realised that presenting is one form of communication. There are common aspects to presentation-based communication and generic purpose-based communication, whether professional or personal. 

1. Message is the start of preparation for all purpose-based communication. The communicator has to be clear and confident about the message that needs to be sent across. At times, message can be a self-chosen topic and at other times, message could be pre-decided (eg: agenda of meeting / sales pitch / topic of presentation etc.). Either way - being clear about the message is the starting point.

Another point to keep in mind is that not only the "what" to be conveyed (message) matters, but also how it is conveyed that matters. Good communication depends on both, verbal and non-verbal aspects. Body language, facial expressions go a long way in adding value to the verbal messaging (or taking away from the message being delivered verbally).

2. Audience is the next important aspect to prepare for. On getting a grip on the message, the presenter has to prepare for the audience of the presentation. Is it an individual or a group? Is it a group of senior-officials? Is the audience unknown to the presenter? Etc...

Understanding the audience helps in calibrating the messaging (what) and its delivery (how) to make it relevant for the audience. Preparing for an audience helps in planning ahead for some questions and / or objections that maybe put forward. Understanding the audience can also help in choosing appropriate verbal and non-verbal messages. If the message and how it is delivered, if the audience starts to realise that the message is relevant to them, then there are better chances for the audience to accept the message, not discard it.

Please note, audience is not everyone who is present there, but the key people for whom the message it intended - thus the communicator / presenter should be careful in planning for the audience. 

3. Impact on the audience, as the result of communication. The communicator has to have an intended impact on the audience in mind as part of their planning. This not only helps the communicator in preparing (before-hand) how to achieve the intended impact, but also know (after-fact) the success of communication. It is with the impact in mind that the communicator can truly calibrate the message and its delivery, and prepare for the audience.

The same message, for the same audience can have different approaches depending on the intended impact that the communicator wants on the audience. Is the intended impact on the audience to move them, or leave them unmoved / untouched by my the intended impact to get audience's buy-in to the message (concept / idea / product / service) the intended impact to raise awareness, nothing more.

4. Next-steps have to be kept in mind. What should happen after the message has been given and there has been the intended impact on the audience? To prepare for possible what-nexts is just as critical as preparing for the message, audience and the intended impact.

Does the communicator want the audience to act in some manner? Does the communicator want to leave any further action on audience's best judgement?

Intended impact, about the message, on the audience is incomplete until the communicator knows what action (next-steps) is required for the communication to be deemed successful. Having said that, no action can also be one possible next-step - as long as this is what the communicator wanted from the audience.

Any purpose-based communication needs preparation. Without proper preparation, the purpose could either get diluted or get lost completely. M.A.I.N. framework allows the communicator to think of and plan for all significant aspects that are at play. 

For successful communication: The purpose is defined in the form of a message. This message has to be shared with an audience, for which the communicator needs to prepare. With the intended impact on the audience in view, the communicator prepares for and calibrates both - the message and its delivery. And finally, the communicator wants to get the audience to act (or not act) in the desired manner. 

Ultimately, the purpose of communication has to culminate in desired action (or inaction) from the audience. If the desired action (or inaction) is not achieved, then another round of communication is required - provided the audience grants it. The communicator can go back to the M.A.I.N. framework to first analyse what worked and what didn't in the first round (i.e. - what's the scope of improvement) and then prepare for Round 2.

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