Have you ever read a report and thought, “So what?” when you were done? Or maybe you walked out of a presentation thinking, “I would rather have been at my desk answering emails!” And even worse, what if that’s what YOUR audience was thinking, because it was YOUR report or YOUR presentation? Avoiding the dreaded “So what” syndrome in your business communication is key to your success.
What is the “So what” syndrome exactly?
I define it as wasting an audience’s time. The audience needs or wants something from you, but is not getting it, at least not in a way they can immediately recognize. And that doesn’t help them or you.
By implementing a few key techniques and strategies, you’ll never have to worry about the “so what” syndrome again. Because that’s THE LAST THING you want anybody thinking about what you are communicating!
Case in point: Ralf the Researcher
Consider Ralf, who was asked politely but firmly by his boss to attend my report writing workshop as part of a division-wide training initiative.
Before the workshop, Ralf submitted his research report to me so I could assess the pre-workshop level of writing skills. At the end of 48 pages of detailed calculations, references, methodologies, charts and results, I wrote the dreaded words at the top of the title page: SO WHAT???
Ralf had failed to show the added value of months of work, which meant it looked like he had wasted resources, both time and money. In truth, Ralf had not. The value of the research to the business just wasn’t obvious to the reader. Ralf had some work to do!
By attending my workshop, applying the principles, and attending two internal group coaching sessions, Ralf was able to write an action-oriented report that clearly showed the value of his work AND got action taken inside his division.
You too, can implement a few key techniques and strategies so you’ll never have to worry about the “so what” syndrome again. Because that’s THE LAST THING you want anybody thinking about what you are communicating!
Techniques and strategies to avoid the “so what” syndrome:
1. Know your purpose
Some people write reports and they really aren’t sure why they are doing it – it’s true, I have met a few of them! I believe everybody writing a report should be able to complete this sentence before they write any further: “The purpose of my report is to …” If it is a presentation, you should know why you are presenting the topic: “I am presenting XX to YY so that …”
2. Know your audience
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Know what your audience needs or wants from you. What will help them do their jobs easier, faster, better, more cheaply, etc.? What can you give them that will help them achieve THEIR goals?
3. Interpret for your audience
If you don’t interpret the information and data you are presenting to your audience, they will do it themselves. And they may not come to the same conclusion as you!
4. Link your arguments
Use linking and connecting language to show relationships between your ideas, cause and effect, chronology, prioritization, etc. Keep it simple, and use words or phrases that everyone will be familiar with.
5. Ask for action
What next steps need to occur? What decisions have to be made, by when and by whom? Be explicit, and let your audience know.
By implementing these strategies and techniques, you will almost certainly be able to avoid the “so what” syndrome in your next report or presentation.
What have you come across recently that made you say “so what?” Let me know in the comments below.
P.S. Are you new to the QACommunication community? You can join the discussion on the QACommunication Facebook page or check out the Communication Skills Toolkit board on QAC’s Pinterest page to get the tools you need to start communicating clearly and concisely.