Communication as a human enterprise is a fascinating though often unpredictable field of study. You certainly have to learn to expect the unexpected and "roll with the punches" when you try to communicate a message to other human beings. But, I think there may be some enduring principles that may help point the way to more effective communications in all settings. This may not be a complete list, but hopefully will offer you an instructive start.
- The Intentionality Principle. Effective communications are purposeful. They are planned and audience-targeted. You have to be clear as to your purpose and plan a strategy to build the message that serves that purpose.
- The Autonomy Principle. People listen, accept, remember, and learn on their own terms. Admittedly, the success of modern advertising appears to contradict this, but advertising is certainly based on crafting a message (if not a product) so that it will appeal to the needs of markets. But, for us as public speakers, if you ignore the autonomy principle you do so at your peril.
- The Entropy Principle. Every message degrades from its intent over time and distance. In short, no one is likely to hear exactly what we meant to say. The media and tools with which we communicate are very imperfect and are riddled with perceptual filters. So we always have to check and re-check to confirm the clarity of our expression and its reception.
- The Craft Principle. In communication, technique matters, at least as much as content and probably more. The message is much more than what we choose to say. So much is embedded in how we choose to say it. So we must be attentive and deliberate craftsmen in all the many aspects of how we are delivering our message.
- The Identity Principle. Humans react to each other in almost chemical ways. Our personalities and presence are a big part of what we transmit and is received in any communication. This reality cannot be avoided. Rather, it calls for high levels of self-awareness and it presents a very valuable opportunity—to enhance our chances of communicating successfully by tapping into the power of our personal credibility and magnetism.
Now you are ready!
Go out and deliver your message.
Say what you really mean and you will move your audience.