Structuring A Successful Business Message

Executive Voice and Communication Skills

Everyone knows that if you build a house without a foundation and supporting walls, at some point it will simply fall down. The exact same principle applies to building a message - whatever the audience, context or audience size.

A message of any type - whether it's a presentation, speech or response to a question - needs a structure to enable us to select and arrange the most appropriate content effectively.


So why do people forget or simply not use structure?

1. The importance of structure may not be recognised. The common approach to creating a presentation for example, is to assemble a set of slides.

2. The executive may not approach the creation of the message using a proper methodology which begins with a clear purpose.

3. It's hard to structure well. We have so much information in our heads that the process of selecting and arranging what's relevant to a particular audience on a particular day can be challenging.

4. Changes in the way we interact with and process information have affected us. As we jump from one webpage to another, from one hyperlink to another, we lose sight of order. The sort we find, for example, in a well-written email, letter or book.

Structure not only helps us to select and arrange the most appropriate content, it also provides the framework upon which we hang the words that we speak. With a planned structure you can create a robust business case, an engaging story, a compelling strategy. Without a proper framework, a message is a stream of information, a ramble round a topic, a forest of thoughts.


So how can we build a solid structure?

A simple approach is to choose your topics:

Topic 1, Topic 2, Topic 3

This means grouping information by their common characteristics.

The order of the topics is also an important consideration. Structures where topics are ordered to create a progression include:

Past - Present - Future

What - How - Why

Situation - Action - Result

Need - Offer - Benefit

All these models have 3 parts. The reason for this is that the working memory can easily manage 3 chunks of information. Any more than this will make it more difficult to follow and remember (consider, for example, how you remember your mobile telephone number).

There are more complex structures such as ring composition, a narrative structure used in storytelling, where topics are ordered in a mirror or circular manner, such as:


We can also use chronology or priority. These create a linear order which is clear and easy to follow. But it can also be less interesting because it is more predictable.


The choice of topic and order need to be driven by your message objective - what you want to happen as a result of speaking or presenting. And these important decisions need to be made BEFORE you start thinking about what you are going to say, what slides to use, or how you are going to deliver your message vocally.

But it's clear: structure helps you to clarify the content, build a robust business case, and manage your delivery of the message.

And it will help the audience to follow your reasoning, buy in to your big idea - and remember what you have said.

To learn more about using structuring methods to strengthen your messages in both impromptu and formal business speaking situations, please contact Professional Voice on:

+44 (0)208 579 6662