9 Tips on Designing for Conversation: The Lynchpin of Effective Communication

9 Tips on Designing for Conversation The Lynchpin of Effective CommunicationIdeas flew at last week’s Marketing and Online Communications Forum, sponsored by Forum One. And I was lucky enough to be right in the middle of them all.

Here’s what your organization needs to know about designing and maintaining compelling conversations with your base (offline or online, these tenets hold across the board):

1)  Nothing like a kick in the pants to get attention
. Comedian Heather Gold jump-started the day with her sharp, smart humorous shtick on the difference between presentation and conversation. Really funny, and startling in a palatable way. She showcased these ideas by creating a relevant conversation in the room so that we all experienced the difference between the two.

2) Shape your conversations to the needs and interests of individual participants, rather than to a meaningless common ground no one cares about. Heather had a series of chats with selected individuals rather than delivering the traditional monologue. Much more compelling than the standard Jerry Seinfeld stand-up approach (the comedic equivalent of presentation).

3) Shift from world of experts to real conversation, from one to many, a true exchange of ideas. When Heather opened up the conversation, we benefited from the expertise and creativity of everyone in the room, instead of hers alone.

4) Diversity in perspective AND style increase level of interest and participation, aka “heat.”

5) ID the point of connection (ideally, an emotional connection) to keep the conversation going and the community tight. What do people care most about at this very moment?

6) Vulnerability makes participants accessible, strengthens that connection and amplifies the speed of engagement. So when participants in an online community or a training on preventing child obesity or a board meeting show vulnerability (e.g. not getting a key concept or making an obvious error in answering a question), they give others a way in. It’s a lot easier to connect with human error than with blazing success.

    7) People don’t trust institutions anymore, but they trust other people (as long as they remain trustworthy). So put your team, clients, members front and center and let them be real (a.k.a. themselves). A real community or conversation enables us to be “ourselves together,” as Heather put it.

    8) Pay attention to your feedback loop; online or offline, community or not. It continues to amaze me how few nonprofits (just 33%) track communications impact.

    9) If communications — online or offline — are a conversation, and a conversation scaled up is a party, then ensure there’s a great host making introductions among folks with like interests, interceding in disagreements so no punches are thrown, ushering the intoxicated guest into the guest room and weaving the wallflower into party talk.

    Read what what my friend Marc Sirkin had to say about the Forum.

    Tag: #moc2008

    P.S. Yes We Can! When a powerful tagline is joined to a compelling mission…nothing is impossible! Download the free Nonprofit Tagline Report for must-dos, don’t dos, case studies and 1,000+ nonprofit tagline examples!

    Nancy Schwartz on November 11, 2008 in Nonprofit Communications, Social Media, Strategy | 1 comment
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    • Eric

      Solid, practical, and insightful tips for non-profit managers, activists, and almost everyone.
      Deploying a memorable quotation or proverb – even a simple one like “well begun is half done” – can also be effective.
      Thanks for sharing.

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