Who Are You Talking To?

Shouting among the crowd

Before I begin: yes, this is a true story. My family lived in Central Asia (in a small country called Azerbaijan) doing mission work from 2005-2006. While returning from a short trip to the neighboring country of Georgia, my family was split up. There were misunderstandings regarding when the train home was leaving. This misunderstanding led to my eldest brother and dad being separated from my mother, brother, and little sister. We had no idea what to do, so my ten-year-old brain concluded that I should go into the common area of the train and start shouting, “No papa! No papa!” until something happened.

That led to several confused looks from middle-aged gentlemen enjoying a cigarette as they made a routine trip for work. Long story short, I eventually succeeded and found someone that could help us. After several hours, car rides, conversations, and one border crossing, we were reunited.

What does this story have to do with your communication and leadership? I’m glad you asked!

Does it ever feel like you’re shouting into a crowded room? You have something to say or something to invite people into, but your voice gets lost in the crowd of distractions, headlines, and other voices. Me, too. Especially in the last 18 months—with events in our culture, a pandemic, and societal tensions, it’s easy for your messages to get lost in the shuffle.

The right message for the right person

Let’s go back to the story for a second. Picture me at that moment: A confused, pale-skinned boy shouting among a crowd who were likely not concerned about our weekend trip ending happily and cared more about getting to their own homes on time. The only thing I did was add a bit of noise and entertainment to their routine trip.

What would have been most effective for my slightly overweight ten-year-old self to do at that moment is find someone who had the connections and resources to help us. I should have found the right person for my message that we needed to get off the train and find my “papa.”

Every update or piece of information is often not relevant to everyone in your audience, church, or community. For your communication to be most effective, it takes thought and intentionality to connect the right message to the right audience. The following are four questions to clarify your communication and help you be more effective.

3 questions

1. If I had to give a picture of my primary target audience in a sentence, how would I describe them?

If we try to reach everybody with every update, encouragement, or resource, our voice will likely get lost in the crowd. Once you identify your target audience, try to be specific and actionable and communicate in a way that inspires action.

2. What is the most effective medium for my message?

Different mediums resonate with diverse audiences. We often default to email when we could utilize video, text, or social media to communicate a message. Consider using multiple mediums for important information and announcements.

3. Am I answering the questions they are asking?

To connect most with your target audience, practice empathy by aiming to answer the questions they are already asking. Questions like: How do I build relationships here? How can I find my place to be involved? How do I access more information?

Let’s identify our audience, clarify our messages, and do our best to speak to people’s desires as we lead and communicate.

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