I just read an interesting blog on how communication skills were dwindling in MBA testing and what that meant. The blog, from Knewton, a standardized testing prep company, reported that GMAT AWA (Analytical Writing Assessment) scores dropped in the last year. Why the drop happened wasn’t analyzed, but the greater question of what this means for business communication skills is an interesting one.
The blog states that, according to the Wall Street Journal, business communication skills (particularly for newly conferred MBAs) are suffering from a lack of adaptivity. Keisha Smith, Global Head of Recruiting for JP Morgan, states in the Journal article that “MBA students are often challenged when they have to adapt their writing for multiple audiences.”
This goes to the root of business communication skills and how critical messages may be getting conveyed. No matter how strong a person’s analysis or ideas are, if they aren’t being communicated in a way that resonates for different audiences, they may get lost. It has huge implications for organizations (obviously) and more specifically for sales, marketing, relationship building, and customer and client interaction.
So how can you improve your (or your people’s) business communication skills? I can give you four concrete methods on how to do it (hint: it goes to communicating to different modes of thought):
- Be prepared with facts and data – if your audience has unique expertise, this is critical for credibility. In any case, people are looking for the greatest ROI, and communicating in terms of the value and benefits of your company, message, products, etc. will be key.
- Organize your thoughts and be clear – Nothing makes a strong message more useless than disorganized and unclear communication. Strong communication skills require a concise, clear way of presenting information.
- Put some emotion into it—connect with who people are – No matter how dry the topic you’re communicating about, a connection to people is critical to a huge part of your market. They need to know that you care about them, the relationship, and others.
- Showcase ideas and surprise people with creative approaches – Business communication skills don’t always emphasize this element, but it’s key. Think about the best presentation you heard in the past month; it probably wasn’t a standardized, boilerplate white paper. Think about this when you present a new idea.
Strong business communication skills start with a diverse approach that ensures you are covering your bases. Then, once you have a relationship or know more about your audience, communication can be varied to fit. Business communication is like any other kind of communication—finding the balance between medium and message.