How to Overcome Communication Obfuscation

Who is more illiterate, the person who can’t read or the one who can but chooses not to?  Something similar can be said for the field of communication. Who has less perceived intelligence, the person who has no ideas or the one who does, but cannot or will not communicate them?

There seems to be many people who have fantastic ideas, philosophical brain waves or amazing discoveries, but just can’t get them out. As more ideas arrive for them, they end up with Communication Obfuscation.

So how do you overcome this Communication Obfuscation? Regardless of whether you are writing, speaking or performing, these tips will give you relief and let your ideas flow in a manner in which they can be easily absorbed.

It’s not about you
Your communication MUST be about the audience. It has to be focussed on what information they need and want. By asking yourself “what does my audience need to understand this topic?” you will find yourself asking better questions. You are more likely to acknowledge information, which you assume, or background information that you already know.

When you make it easy to be in the audience, you are more likely to get and hold their attention. Most people have been to conferences or read articles where the creator of the content had to say how good they were – why THEY are important and not the subject matter at hand.

The audience is not interested in your ego and once you make it about you, it can not be about them. Global Politics is full of examples of leaders who are busy telling anyone who will listen how good THEY are, what THEY have done and the success THEY have had.  However, the most important people in the room, the ones who VOTE and have the power to put the leader back into power, are not even considered in the conversation.

How can you shift the subject of your communication to make it about the audience and their wants, needs and desires?

Begin with end in mind
This is one of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and it is one of the most useful.

When it comes to your communication, you need to consider what the outcome is that you are after. Do you want the reader to feel joyous? Do you want the audience to feel inspired? Do you want the recipient to sign up to your newsletter? What do you want?

Beginning with the outcome you are after gives you focus. With focus you will not introduce irrelevant material or extra material that takes you off track.

A film like The Avengers does this well. There are many elements of the film that tell a story that ultimately get you to the main fight to save the planet. A film like Jason Bourne did it poorly. Additional information kept on being added, there was no clear villain and there seemed to be little reason for the course of action that was taken. The end driver was not big enough.

By keeping the end in mind you can ask yourself, “what do I need next to get me there?”

You are on before you are on
With so many different parts of the media (both social and broadcast) screaming out for our attention, you have to work at getting the attention of your target market. There are several ways to do this:

  • Create a following
    Bloggers know that if people like their writing style and approach, it doesn’t matter what the topic is, they will read it any way. Seth Godin does this well.
  • Get to know the audience
    If you are speaking at an event, arrive early and start talking to people. This starts the connection you can continue on stage and may give you an example you can use, that is, “I was talking with Sam and he said that your industry …”
  • Have a snappy title
    Your title is often the first and sometimes the last thing people will read about your communication. It has to be short, informative and be able to grab their attention. It has to stand out, be different and be targeted at your audience. A quirky approach will help you penetrate the noise of all the other options.
  • Create excitement.
    This is great if you are presenting. Help your event organiser by creating a short video that promotes the event and in addition gives a little something to the delegates. This can build anticipation and get the delegates excited about your part in their event.
  • Engage
    This is where the art of communication is needed. You can’t just distribute your ideas, you MUST make the audience part of the story. Take them on a journey and make the whole discussion memorable. Think of your own school days. Out of over 12 years of schooling, what are the lessons you remember the most. You may remember copying down line after line after line of what the teacher wrote on the board, but do you remember WHAT you wrote?

Compare that to one of your favourite teachers who had the knack of bringing a subject to life or making the classroom laugh or challenging you on your thought processes. No doubt you remember some of these lessons today. What was it that made it memorable and how can you do the same?

Some of the methods that the masters of engagements use include; Telling stories, creating great visuals, making the learning interactive, asking better questions, providing case studies to follow or simply having quotes from experts to highlight their point.

Less is more
So often we want to communicate as much as we can to the other person. We want to be generous in our education of them and give them EVERYTHING WE KNOW. The outcome of this is complete overload, brain shut down and ultimately they absorb little.

Never has the adage, “Less is more”, been more appropriate.

Too much information and they won’t remember. So keep it simple and keep it short. If presenting, try and condense it down to some key points you want to get across. One key point every 10 minutes seems to work well.

For each key point you then give two or three examples to reinforce the point. As mentioned earlier this can be a case study, quote, example, story, statistic, research or even anecdotal evidence. It is all about backing up the key point.

The secret is to make sure you are only conveying the key pieces of information to the audience. Enough to engage them, keep them part of the conversation and take the action you are after.

The temptation is to give more and more information so they are better prepared but the reality is it actually detracts from their clarity and leads to inaction by confusion. Stay focussed on the outcome you are after and deliver it using the key points only.

Have fun
Communicators take themselves very seriously but there is no subject that cannot be fun. Many a wake has outrageous laughter as people reminisce about the deceased humorous antics or funny things that happened with them.

Enjoy your communication. Slip in a dodgy “dad” joke or humorous anecdote. Your audience will love it, even if they groan about it, the attempt at humour shifts their energy. Humour is known for being able to open people’s minds to a new idea or a different perspective. With a bit of humour we may laugh at a subject at first but then we may consider it in a different light rather than simply denying an idea when we first hear it.

Look at the impact many comedians are having on our political landscape. It used to be that we laughed at our comedians and listened to our politicians. It seems now that we listen to our comedians and laugh at our politicians.

The other thing about having fun is that it also relaxes your audience. If they feel you as the communicator are under control or are relaxed with your communication, they are more likely to relax and take it in.

Whatever you do with your communication, it is important that you keep expressing it. By continuing to express yourself in whatever medium you choose, you can’t help but relieve your Communication Obfuscation. 

Warwick_Merry (2) 6.7.15Warwick Merry is the MC for the PCO Association Conference and Exhibition to be held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, 27 – 29 November 2016

Warwick Merry is a Master MC, Exhibiting Expert and the host of the PCO Association’s Meetings Industry Insights show. Visit to watch the latest episodes.