It's hard enough to get your point across in a regular meeting. People don't focus, they don't understand what we're trying to accomplish and it can be frustrating. Over a conference call or webmeeting it can be even harder.
Recently, I came came across a great tip for helping get your point across to others in a simple, concise way. But why is it so difficult?
Well for one thing, in a remote meeting, you're dependant on the audio, which can be tricky at best. Secondly, your intended audience is distracted. Not only are they distracted by the obvious barriers to online understanding (barking dogs, bad audio, incoming email and annoying office mates), but by their own preconceptions about the topic, about you and about the team's ability to function.
The simple fact is, you have less time and less margin for error when you are communicating virtually. What seems like "building your case" can often seem like dissembling, avoiding the point or just plain malarkey to a listener who doesn't know (or possibly like or trust) you.
This isn't just me talking. Recently in a LinkedIn group for Virtual Facilitators (and if you're not a member of the Virtual Facilitation Group on LinkedIn, give it a shot), I got a great comment on one of my posts. Tony Mann is a facilitation expert and the author of "Facilitation - an Art, Science, Skill or All Three?".
In the book, he discusses how to get your point across when you're faced with the challenges of distance and mediating your message through technology.
He suggests using a process he gives the acronym "SPO". It stands for:
S Summarize the main point: Summarize the context or background information that is prompting your proposal. "Any solution will have to deal with xxx and yyy".
P Propose your suggestion or recommended action: Get to the point. What exactly are you recommending? "I think we should xxxx." Your recommendation or proposal should be explainable in a single sentence or paragraph. If you haven't thought it out well enough to present concisely, you probably haven't thought it out.
O Explain the OUTCOME or result you'll achieve: What will adopting your proposal do to achieve the team's goals or objectives. "By doing this we can xxx and yyy while not doing zzzz".
Here's the hardest part of "SPO". Shut up and wait for questions and feedback. Often we lose our audience or bury our key points by over-explaining. Online or on the phone it's hard for people to follow long speeches and arguments. Plus, any good salesman will tell you it's easy to talk people out of a sale by not shutting up in time.
You can learn more about Tony Mann by following him on Twitter at FacilitateGuru. While you're there, follow me at greatwebmeeting.
I'll shut up now.