BLUFing Your Communication at Work
How to Present Information to Your Target Audience
We’ve all experienced it. We ask for an update and our employee who sits just three offices down writes you an email that takes them an hour to write, and you 20 minutes to read. Or, we get 4 attachments full of data and numbers that clog our inbox. The concept of audience is taught in writing classes, presentation workshops and other related settings. Audience essentially refers to the target recipient of the information. In business situations, the difference between knowing and not knowing your audience can be a big deal. And yet, somehow we still struggle with it.
Nowadays, we are overwhelmed by information. Social Media. Conference calls. Emails, email attachments and presentations, not to mention people walking into our offices for a quick update. As a manager, we sometimes just want (or need) to know the main take away without having to sift through a bunch of data to figure it out, or have a lengthy conversation to get to the main point. As a result, we expect our employees to help boil down a mountain of information to help us get the conclusion faster.
Think about the times when an employee sends you a 9 MB presentation. The information he or she sent is littered with data, charts, background context and referenced documents. Connecting the dots quickly is next to impossible, and you do not really have the time to spending figuring it out. By the end of 45 slides when you expect a punch line, you realize you forgot the question.
Teaching Employees How To Communicate
B.L.U.F. – which stands for Bottom Line Up Front – is a great lesson I regularly share with my employees when they ask me to review something. Many times, slides and documents are constructed as lengthy volumes intended for reference rather than a sharp presentation to be delivered to an executive. After reviewing 45 slides of data and information, you should expect to see a punchline. While supporting details are indeed important, a critical message can easily be lost when drowned out by excessive data, charts, background context and referenced documents.
Putting the Bottom Line Up Front means you have an executive summary, or something similar that indicates ‘this is what you’re going to see, so be prepared for it.’ Don’t make your audience work.
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The BLUF approach drastically improves the communication of what’s important to the reader, and what the overall message is. Sometimes details are needed. Sometimes they are not. BLUF can help in both instances since it boils the overall message down into it simplest form of a summary. The person on the receiving end can always choose to go into the details as they feel necessary. It’s a simple tip, but one I’ve found useful in communicating with others.
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