Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Organization Is Important

“Well, why didn’t you say that in the first place?” That’s an expression many of us have heard often over the years. Why would anybody say such a thing? Simple: had they understood your starting point clearly they would have had a better chance to understand everything else you have said.

Organization is important and should never be ignored. Just because something is clear in your mind doesn’t mean that it will be clear to others. If they had the same understanding you do of the subject, then you might be able to assume that whatever is clear to you should be clear to them. But their understanding is bound to be different. The world that they have created in their mind is different from the world you’ve created in yours. That means that you are going to have to proceed with caution, step by step, using examples, definitions, illustrations, stories, statistics and other materials to build your idea in their mind.

The more time you spend building an organization that will make clear what you’re thinking the more likely those you are talking to will understand what you are trying to communicate. In part, our impatience with organization comes from the belief that “all reasonable people are pretty much like I am.” Even if that were true in general it isn’t true in particular. You have built your world one experience at a time over several months or years. Now you have to provide the equivalent information in the proper order to empower them to understand what you are saying.

Organization is key. The better you are at the following thought processes the more likely that you will be effective at speaking.
1. Focus on your knowledge base. What do I know about my chosen topic? What is the goal of my communication?
2. Focus on the audience—what do they know about my topic? What will they need to know to understand what I’m talking about?
3. What do I want them to think, or be able to do? Can I state it in a simple declarative sentence and does it cover basically one topic?
4. How can I arrange my materials to produce the outcome I want/need? What do they need to know in general and in what order for them to understand?
5. Can I say it in such a way that they will see that it is important to them, easy to understand and memorable? Will they be able to explain to another person later what you have said?

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