You may recall when you were a kid or when playing with your kids the activity of connect the dots.  The fun of this game is that as you connect the dots, assuming you do it correctly, the dots come together to reveal a bigger picture.

The same thing goes for communication.  In fact, if you want people to really “get” what it is you’re communicating, you have to connect the dots.

People only understand ideas in relation to ideas they already have.  All memory and knowledge is built this way.

When we were young, we were shown a dog and told, “This is dog.”  Now the image and the word were linked.  Everything we learn going forward is acquired the same way, by connecting what we already know with something else.

What Does Your Audience Already Know?

So when we’re trying to get our message across, we need to evaluate what does my audience already know.

What are they familiar with?

What is it that I want them to know and how can I bridge the two.

We can do this factually step by step or we can use metaphor.  The metaphor, of course, should be one that your audience is familiar with and can relate to.  Most likely, your metaphor will act as the first dot.

Then even if your final dot doesn’t fully connect with your audience, they can fill in the space between because they understand the metaphor.

This is true whether you’re talking to one person or a hundred.  With one person, it is easier to see when they’re missing dots, they usually will scrunch their eye brows or get a glazed look.  Or maybe you haven’t seen that one before?  If you have, you know what I’m talking about.

On a larger scale with groups, you can check in with larger groups of behavior such as people moving or shifting in their chairs.  Also, the questions they ask will also give you feedback about how well they were able to connect the dots.

Pay attention to the feedback you get.  It is valuable in understand how well your message came across as well as understanding the mindset of those in the audience.  Whenever there is missed communication, simply go back and give them more dots.


John Ryan

Host of Key Conversations for Leaders Podcast, Executive Coach, Consultant, and Trainer

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