Effective written communication within the workplace is crucial for an individual’s, as well as a company’s success. But this can seem a bit confusing and worrisome when actually putting one’s self in a situation where communication is necessary. How can you be sure that your audience will fully understand what you are trying to say? What amount of info is too little or too much to communicate? How can you be sure that your audience will not be confused by what you are saying? If you’re anything like me, you have countless questions about how to make your workplace communication most effective. But never fear. You can tackle any of these worries and more by incorporating the idea of User-Centered Design in all that you do. User-centered design describes the way in which you communicate your information to your audience. Communication is situational, and so there is no universal way to share your information most effectively. User-centered design demands that you tailor your communication style for a specific audience’s needs in order to achieve the best outcome possible on both sides. So what does it look like to communicate in a “user-friendly” manner? Let’s take a look at user-centered design in action as we explore how this concept can be applied through a very familiar form of office communication; the dreaded powerpoint presentation.
Thoroughly Consider Your Audience
Before constructing a presentation, think long and hard to yourself about who exactly your audience is and what they want to get out of your work. Presentations that drag on and fail to engage the audience tend to be counterproductive, as the audience soon loses interest and may even stop listening to the information being communicated. Remember the last time you sat through an incredibly boring presentation? What exactly made it so excruciating to sit through? Today, more and more professionals demand powerpoints and presentations that are aesthetically pleasing, integrated with coordinating color palettes, as well as videos and animations. If you have been ordered to give a presentation to your coworkers, and you are certain that you have more than an hour’s worth of information to communicate, it is in your best interest to incorporate colorful graphics to make your info easier to understand, but also to maintain your audience’s attention.
The last thing you want to do is to spend time creating a visually stunning presentation, and then find out that your audience was too confused by the excessive amount of information that you tried to communicate. One common mistake than many presenters make is that they end up cramming 3-5 pieces of crucial information onto one slide. By the time the audience grasps the first piece of important info, you have already moved on to talk about other notable topics, leaving them lost from then on. The best way to combat this problem is to keep your slides narrow and focused on only one topic at a time. Customizing each slide specifically for each idea will allow the audience to vividly remember the info and recognize its importance.
Even after thoroughly considering your audience and focusing your ideas, it can still be hard to gauge whether or not your communication will be effective. In this situation, the best thing to do is to ask fellow co-workers or employers for their opinions. Give your presentation to someone who can give you constructive criticism and ask them if they could clearly understand the info you were trying to communicate. Were they confused? Did they lose interest throughout the presentation? Based on their responses you can begin to understand what parts of user-centered design you implemented well, and what parts you can improve for the future.