What's Your Story?

Biz Narrative Blog by Ruth Halpern

Observations and anecdotes about business narrative in the corporate world.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cooking Up a Delicious Message

They say that if you can read, you can cook: Just follow the recipe, and you’re guaranteed success.

But just look at the sad form of this flattened-out chicken (the first time I’ve ever roasted a whole chicken). The recipe said “place in the pan,” so I did—wrong-side up, my chef-husband later told me, and all splayed out, he explained, because I didn’t truss it.

“But I followed the directions,” I complained. The recipe didn’t say “This side up,” nor did it say to truss the bird, nor how, nor where, nor why. I just did as I was told, and ended up with this funny-looking result.

How often the words on the page, or the sentences we speak, are based on assumptions and premises about the audience that are absolutely incorrect. Not everyone went to cooking school in Paris. Not everyone knows what you know about policies, histories, the Way Things Should Be Done.

How do we figure out what our audience doesn’t know, and make sure to address those gaps when we communicate?

• Question yourself—how did I learn how to do this?

• Put yourself in your audience’s place—what will make the process easy, clear, and rewarding for them?

• Test your communication on a sample audience with the same background/knowledge level you anticipate in your real audience.

Before you communicate, make sure you’ve included all the ingredients needed to cook up a satisfying exchange.

And by the way, as funny-looking as this chicken was, it tasted delicious.