If you are like most international professionals I know, you literally spend weeks each year writing business correspondence: reports, letters, slide presentations that are in fact documentation… and let’s not forget emails!
When you start writing these business documents, you usually have a goal in mind. Then sometimes you get lost in the detail, you write too directly, or your key messages get lost in the lengthy paragraphs.
Results can be disappointing: No action was taken, no decision was made, no one mentioned your brilliant report in conversation at the weekly department meeting. Sometimes you can’t even be sure than anyone even read your document!
If this sounds familiar, then hang in there, because there is hope!
How to make your writing more persuasive
Just about every client I work with wants to know how to make their reports more persuasive, so the reports, recommendations and writers have a positive impact on the business.
My clients want to influence decisions, get actions taken, and create positive change. They understand that when there is no change, there is no growth.
How can you persuade in writing to increase your impact and influence positive change? Here are 5 of the foolproof techniques I share with my clients in my Writing for Impact workshop:
1. Start with a structure
No matter what your reporting template looks like, make sure you’ve got a logical structure built into your document. Whether it’s an audit report or a scientific report, it’s easier for the reader to grasp your key messages and follow your argumentation if you have a structure.
Your structure may be explicit, using subtitles, or it may be implicit, embedded in the language you choose. Either way, a structure will help you create a convincing argument.
2. Add facts and figures
No business report would be complete without facts and figures to anchor your arguments. These facts and figures should be indisputable. They will establish the foundation for your supporting analysis, comparisons and conclusions.
Add figures like graphs, charts and images as long as they support your argumentation. The key point of any figure should be self-evident, otherwise it will distract the reader rather than add clarity.
3. Explain the impact
I’m a firm believer in the idea that people will make better, more informed decisions when they understand the impact of doing – or not doing – something. It may be impact to the organization, the environment, the team or something personal. Regardless, knowing the impact gives your business partner the opportunity to make a different decision than they might have otherwise made.
Add in equal measures of sincerity and authenticity, so that no one feels like they are being manipulated or bullied.
4. Invoke the pain-pleasure principle
In the end, we all make decisions because they will either add pleasure or take away pain. If your recommendations will save my unit $15,000, 15% or 15 man-days, then I want to know about it. And I will most likely implement it.
Remember that emotions play a part in every decision we make, so always, in a professional manner, appeal to their emotions, even in writing. Difficult? Yes. Impossible? No.
5. Make your document ‘easy on the eye’
Please. I can’t stress it enough. There is (almost) nothing worse than opening up a document and seeing page after page after page of 20-line paragraphs. Nothing kills my joy at learning something new than having to weed through pages of text that have no breaks, no diagrams, no subtitles, no numbering and no white space.
Write more persuasively immediately
These strategies come straight from my experience, working with international professionals and having reviewed literally hundreds of their reports. They are things you can put to work TODAY in your business writing to help you persuade, increase your impact and influence others to take decisions and action.
Let me know how these strategies help you, and please add your own in the comments below.
p.s. Registration is open for the most comprehensive audit report writing workshop in Europe: International Audit Report Writing specifically for international auditors. You’ll have two full days with me, plus pre- and post-support, in Heidelberg, Germany. Learn more and register today. Want to send a few people from your company? Email me directly for group discounts.
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