The SUCCESS formula of IBCS ® – SAY covers all aspects of conveying messages to the recipients of reports and presentations. Conveying messages means that reports and presentations, both as a whole as well as within their individual components, intend to say something to the recipients. Messages in this sense can be determinations, explanations, clarifications, recommendations, and other forms of statements.
This article covers introduces the 5 key components of IBCS ® SA – say: convey a message. This is a follow on to the introduction article SUCCESS formula of the IBCS ® Communication standards.
IBCS ® Conveying messages: SA 1 – Introduce message
Prepare the readers of reports and the audience of presentations of the message before they actually receive it. They need an introduction mapping the actual situation, explaining the problem and posing the related question.
SA 1.1 Map situation
Mapping the situation means compiling and presenting the related facts. Be sure to cover all relevant aspects and obtain a general consensus concerning the facts. In general, this means not yet describing the given problem but presenting facts and goals already known to the reader or audience. It is advisable to begin with a positive and generally accepted description of the situation in order to prevent early contradictions.
SA 1.2 Explain problem
After mapping the situation, introduce the challenge or complication, affecting the reader or the audience. It should make everyone aware of a critical or even dangerous problem.
SA 1.3 Raise question
A good introduction raises the relevant question of how to solve the complication in the described situation. The question at the beginning of each report or presentation then leads to the message, i.e. the answer to the question.
IBCS ® Conveying messages: SA 2 -Deliver message
Delivering the message means answering the question asked at the end of the introduction. Be sure to avoid mundane messages. Your message rather detects, explains, or suggests something your report or presentation later explains in detail.
SA 2.1 Avoid mundane messages
Mundane messages, such as: “Our project has four phases” or “We had a peak in April,” will lead to reports going unread and presentations merely endured. Messages should be clear, interesting, and quantified whenever possible. Messages must be proven by the report or presentation.
SA 2.2 Detect, explain, or suggest
Messages in reports and presentations can have different characteristics. Using complete sentences in a message helps it to be understood. E.g., “Sales down” could mean that our sales went down or that we forecast decreasing sales or even that our competitor suffered lower sales. Preferably, our message should not be merely a detection, rather an explanation, and – if possible – a recommendation that will be explained or discussed.
Since detections are statements that can be checked for accuracy, they should be formulated as precisely as possible. Suggestions can be derived from detections and their corresponding explanations. The figure on the left shows a classification of messages with examples from the business environment.
SA 2.3 First deliver the message, then explain it
Every report, every presentation and every single page or exhibit can be summed up with a clear overall message. In presentations, the speaker should always say his message first and then explain or prove it. If the message comes at the end of a presentation, the audience will have difficulties following the storyline.
IBCS ® Conveying messages: SA 3 -Detail message
A delivered message has to be detailed with arguments substantiating it. Arrange the arguments into a storyline in order to help the reader or listener to understand the message and to prepare them for the action recommended.
SA 3.1 Provide the evidence
Substantiate the message in order to prove the message by facts and figures. If possible, a presentation slide should itself explain or prove the speaker’s message and not – as very often seen in practice – be explained by the speaker. This can be done by spoken sentences possibly supported by charts, tables, and pictures.
SA 3.2 Develop storyline
Develop a story line means presenting a “pyramidal” structure of statements (detections, explanations, and suggestions) forming stringent and logical argumentation. “Pyramidal” means a hierarchical array of statements, arguments, findings, etc. conforming to the STRUCTURE IBCS ® rule.
IBCS ® Conveying messages: SA 4 -Support message
Supporting the message covers technical and practical aspects of message formulation, while detailing the message concerned presenting content in a logical storyline.
SA 4.1 Use precise words
The more unambiguous the language, the clearer the message. Only precise words will be understood. Speaking about “relevant” or “significant” (in common speech, not as a statistical term) content leads to misinterpretations and misunderstandings. Speaking about facts and figures will prevent them.
SA 4.2 Visualize facts
Messages are easier to understand, if made plausible with the help of charts, tables, graphs, or pictures visualizing the underlying facts. Even the structure of arguments might be visualized, e.g. in the form of decision trees or flow charts, rendering complex structures easier to comprehend.
SA 4.3 Highlight message
Visually highlight messages in the communication objects presented – namely in charts, tables, graphs, and pictures. This facilitates comprehension and reduces the time needed to understand complex situations. In most cases, it should be possible to highlight the important parts of the content by underlining the most important facts or emphasizing interesting details. Objects and pages without highlighting indicators tend to be statistical instead of reporting material.
SA 4.4 Name sources and link comments
Footnotes for explanations (e.g. explanations of abbreviations) and for naming sources increase the credibility of the content shown. They can be omitted from slides projected on the wall, but must be included in written reports.
Comments on report and presentation pages should be numbered and assigned to the corresponding text to facilitate comprehension.
IBCS ® Conveying messages: SA 5 – Summarize message
Conclude a presentation with the overall message, including the next steps and an explanation of the consequences. In reports, on the other hand, such repetition is not necessary as the reader can quickly browse back to the respective summary at the beginning.
SA 5.1 Repeat message
Avoid the phrase “Thank you for your attention” at the end of a presentation. Instead, presenters should briefly sum up their message one last time – in one sentence, if possible. At the conclusion of a successful presentation, the audience will be thanking the presenters for the information. Repeating the message from the beginning of a presentation at the end helps the audience check the quality of the storyline and brings the presentation full circle.
SA 5.2 Explain consequences
Conclude your report or presentation with proposals for the decisions to be taken and an explanation of the consequences. This is the real objective of a presentation: Convince the audience both of the message and the suggested steps to be taken next.