Queer eye for the project guy: Making your messages more engaging

This week I’ve been talking to the security team at my company about making narratives and communications more engaging. Effectively I’ve been doing a Queer Eye for the Project Guy outreach to help them make their communications more fabulous!

The problem: Boring narratives

The team wants to communicate important information about security topics, so what do they do? They create a clear and matter of fact statement that details everything in a clear way to aid understandability. On paper this is great; it’s clear, concise and understandable so people should engage with it, right?

The issue is that an uncreative and boring communication will wash over people and nobody then engages, so your messaging gets lost.

Think about TV adverts. In an advert effort has been put in to make the message of “buy our stuff” engaging to people, trying to leave a lasting impression. In the same way, we need to make our communications within projects engaging, interesting and appealing as this will help to land a message (rather than it getting ignored and lost).

Add some flamboyance to what you say!

Try to make some impact to your messaging by being flamboyant. Use images and a more casual tone of voice to make what you’re saying more appealing. Using tag lines, slogans and mascots can make a message more catchy and make communications more memorable. The well thought out application of colour, through marketing psychology, can also help to intensify our messaging.

Note: Make sure to not just focus on visual impact; using more engaging wording will help land your message generally and with people who have vision based disabilities.

Fig 1. Changing up slides to help make a message more impactful visually.

Okay and I hear you saying “That’s all well and good when it comes to slides, but what about written communications?” Well, we can do the same things here; add some personality to what you’re saying to help make things engaging. I tend to use mascots and emojis to help visually land my messaging (as people may just scan it, pick out any visual cues, like the warning signs, then read the message proper). I also use the more conversational tone of voice and try to keep the sentences short and punchy (a maximum of 25 words) to keep engagement.

Fig 2. A Slack message using emoji and text to be more engaging.

Be fabulous in person!

One of the biggest turn offs for me is when people present and just read out from their slides. In those situations you could have just sent out the slides as the presentation gives us no new information. When we talk in person that’s our chance to convey so much more information than the written word does; we can add emotional enhancement to our message (and emotions help something be memorable).

A trick that I’ve learned from playing Dungeons and Dragons is that how I use my voice and words to narrate something can be massively impactful; using pauses or slowing my speech to inject tension or using lots of adjectives and a fast and excited tone to make battles feel more epic. The same can be done for our project presentations where we can use a bit of showmanship to make the presentation more engaging.

  • Be a ringmaster – use big exciting terms to get people fired up: “Ladies, gentlemen and everybody in between! People even now are plotting to get you! Oh yes everybody, malicious scammers are coming for you… But fear not! A little vigilance can keep you safe from phishing and let me tell you how…”
  • Be a writer – prepare a script for what you’re going to say in the presentation notes of your slides that are different to what’s on the slide. Take the time to craft a story that’s more interesting than just bullet points and touches on bigger concepts like emotions and personal connections through anecdotes.
  • Be an actor – wear a costume, wear a wig, use a voice or sing! People will remember that one time that you turned up to the meeting in drag or when you gave them a security announcement in rhyming verse.

Solving the problem: Use a little queer eye zhuzh

In general use “zhuzh” means to improve appearance by way of slight adjustment.

We don’t have to boil the ocean, you can make slight tweaks in how you present things to make it more engaging. Experiment with your content in terms of its visual, written and spoken appeal to make it more fabulous. Work with marketing to change your slides, use a couple of emojis in your message or maybe think about how you perform your next presentation to add excitement.

Try it out, see how a little fabulousness can help land your messaging.

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