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Rule 45: Know your audience and tailor your communications appropriately

An excellent rule from Sarah Gaeta, of Plastic Logic, to keep in mind while communicating.

To whom are you speaking?

Upper management? Peers? Subordinates? Customers? Partners?

Too many times product managers do not adjust the content, messages, methods or timings of communications to be best suited to the audience. An effective product manager can communicate across all levels of an organization and externally. Focus on your audience and ask yourself:

  • What does this audience need to know?
  • What does this audience want to know?
  • How many slides or paragraphs do they tolerate?
  • Do they approach this from tops-down or bottoms-up?
  • Would schematics be better than words?
  • Is PowerPoint acceptable?
  • Do I need to leave some documentation behind? Would it be dangerous to do that?
  • Would a demo help/hurt?
  • When’s the last time the audience had information on this project? What was that information? (i.e. How much catch up do I need to do for the audience?)
  • What do I need/want to get out of the interaction?
    • Approvals? Feedback? A signed deal?

Taking time to prepare for the interaction usually delivers rich results. Take the time to prep. Do a dry run if you can, especially when it’s a critical interaction. Organize yourself well.

Details to consider:

  • Consider publishing an agenda to all participants before the meeting. Nothing is worse than having a meeting on the calendar without knowing why it’s valuable to the attendee. Get your audience’s attention before the meeting by communicating with them early.
  • Body language reading is very important to understanding your audience’s reactions. Can you ask someone to be observer/note taker?
  • Is there a follow-up interaction you want to schedule? Why? In what timeframe?

Keep your communications concise, current and real. You’ll be regarded as a strong communicator when people remember what you told them and use the information to help themselves.

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