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Reduce Communication Noise By Aligning Data with These 5 Meeting Types


Minimize noise by aligning the data you share with the type of meeting (meeting forum).
Minimize noise by aligning the data you share with the type of meeting (meeting forum).

Communication noise can be efficiently reduced by aligning the data we share with the meeting type. The five meeting types, or communication forums, to consider for reducing noise are meetings with senior management, internal work-team meetings, public speaking, communication with the media, and interaction with elected officials.


Use the FINESSE approach in meetings with senior management. FINESSE can also make internal work-team meetings more efficient and effective but follow the lead of the meeting facilitator. When it comes to public speaking, communication with the media, and interaction with elected officials, less data is better. Some modified approaches are needed for these communication frames.


Meetings with Senior Management

Meetings with senior management and decision makers are the primary focus of the FINESSE approach. Two underlying assumptions are that the decision is strategic (big) and requires a longer period of time due to high levels of complexity and uncertainty.


Communicating with FINESSE with senior management and decision makers differs from technical team meetings. Communicating as a trusted advisor to senior management and decision makers fundamentally differs from public speaking, media communications, and interacting with elected officials.


Less is more when it comes to data sharing and its potential to produce noise with senior management. Providing less data is consistent with other noise reduction tips, such as providing a balanced approach with human aspects, narrative discussion, and symbolic (numbers, graphs, equations) communication. Less is more is consistent with the six essential graphics, one per category, provided within the Illustrations bone.


Senior management wants to know the time, not how the watch was made.

Less is more is also consistent with duty-based ethics. You are there as a trusted advisor, not a persuader or manipulator. And it is consistent with endless respect and empathy for the decision maker – after all, FINESSE is about the message receiver, not the message sender.


Limit the amount of data and information provided in summary reports and verbal presentations to senior management. Make it transparently available if they wish to dig deeper into the details.


2. Meeting with Internal (Work) Teams

Internal (work) team meetings are technical meetings where decision makers are not involved. The same FINESSE approach will make technical, work-team meetings more efficient and effective. However, there is no doubt that the technical details are much more important because the purpose of the meeting is to work out the technical issues.

The rule of thumb to reduce noise is to treat a meeting where a member of senior management or decision maker is present as a meeting with senior management. If one person from senior management is present, consider it a work team meeting and follow the guidelines provided by the meeting facilitator.


Work team meetings are naturally noisy.

3. Public Speaking

Public speaking involves providing 30- to 60-minute presentations to community-based organizations, stakeholder groups, or professional societies. For technical professionals, this type of public speaking may take the form of information about a new product or technology, a project update, a response to a major threat, or a summary of actions taken on a specific subject. Lunch or dinner presentations, keynote speeches, and many conference presentations fall into this category.


Public speaking is about the entertainment value.


Public speaking is speaker oriented.

Conference presentations serve as a good example. The highest-ranked sessions normally have more pictures than words, stories to make you laugh, and few process diagrams. High-ranked conference sessions are usually energetically given in a shorter time period than provided in the agenda so that everyone has some extra time to socialize, get a cup of coffee, or take a bathroom break before the next session starts.


Like all public speaking, conference sessions are primarily about the entertainment value. Minimize the amount of data you share in the verbal presentation. Provide links for those who are interested in some of the details. Occasionally, provide a handout. Data becomes noise that distracts from the entertainment value.


4. Meetings with the Media

Technically trained professionals should leave communication with the media to the media communication experts. Some technically trained professionals are also trained to communicate with the media but having some training does not make someone an expert.


The media and our decision makers are not seeking the same things.

When the media calls, they are seeking:

  • an expert

  • an expert with a strong opinion with a good quote

  • someone that shares their opinion on the story

  • an eyewitness account, or a good visual image

The media wants information helps them (the media) interpret events as they see them. That interpretation is left to someone else—the reporter or the editor. The minute you say words or show data, you lose control over the interpretation.


The media cares little about your data and information, except in a way that helps them tell their slant on the story. The rule of thumb is to avoid providing data to the media because it will become noise in their communication. Let someone in your communications department decide what and how much the media need data.


5. Meetings with Elected Officials (and other politicians)

Politics is simply one way for a group to bring another group to the same understanding.


Persuasion is the name of the game.


Communicating with elected officials is similar to dealing with boards of directors. In many cases, they may be the same. Avoiding commentary with elected officials or the board of directors may not be as simple as minimizing public speaking opportunities or leaving the media to someone else.


Is the CEO a decision maker or a figurehead? It is often best to assume the latter. Treat the CEO as a politician.

Elected officials seek only a handful of things

  • to do something good and be part of the solution

  • to get reelected or reappointed

  • to get things done that are important to them; to avoid making people mad at them if they do not care much about the issue

  • not look bad or stupid to the public, their colleagues, or the media

This handful of important things can also be said about most members of corporate boards of directors.


These are three rules for dealing with elected officials: be accurate, be brief, and tell me something new.


Remember, politicians (or board members or the CEO) do not want to be embarrassed, do not have much time, and use sensory communication with their constituents. This is why all politicians like a story and do not want or get wrapped up in the data.


Avoid providing data to elected officials because it will become noise in your communication with them and their communication with others (if they attempt to use it). If elected officials need data, let someone in your government affairs or communications department decide what and how much.


Leave communication with elected officials to the formally trained communication experts.


Communicating with FINESSE

Communication noise can be efficiently reduced by aligning the data we share with the meeting type. The five meeting types, or communication forums, to consider for reducing noise are meetings with senior management, internal work-team meetings, public speaking, communication with the media, and interaction with elected officials.


When it comes to reducing noise by aligning the amount of data with the communication forum, consider the following:

  1. Senior management: less is more; follow FINESSE

  2. Internal work teams: data is the purpose; these meetings are naturally noisy

  3. Public speaking: entertainment; more showmanship than data

  4. Media: they care little about your data

  5. Elected officials: less is more; they want stories and sound bites


Use the FINESSE approach in meetings with senior management. FINESSE can also make internal work-team meetings more efficient and effective but follow the lead of the meeting facilitator. When it comes to public speaking, communication with the media, and interaction with elected officials, less data is better. Some modified approaches are needed for these communication frames.


 

JD Solomon Inc provides solutions for facilitation, asset management, and program development at the nexus of facilities, infrastructure, and the environment. Founded by JD Solomon, Communicating with FINESSE is the community of technical professionals dedicated to being highly effective communicators and facilitators. Learn more about our publications, webinars, and workshops. Join the community for free.

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