The Communication Funnel

The Communication Funnel

Preparing a great talk can, and should be, a lot of work.

It’s important to put in the effort because there are plenty of opportunities for your message to be misunderstood, misspoken, misheard, misinterpreted, misrepresented.

Your message goes through a “Communication Funnel” that inevitably has the potential to dilute, distort or diminish it each step of the way.

As you are preparing your presentation, you must be acutely aware that from your initial messaging intent to the final destination a lot can happen.

If you more or less "wing it”, it is unlikely your message will be correctly and faithfully received and / or repeated. Its not enough that you express your thoughts accurately. Your job, as an effective public speaker is to actually communicate. For that, your precious message must actually arrive at destination. This baby, needs to land with your audience if you are to make a change in the world.

Using slogans, repetition, and having a clear structure to your talk are a few of the proven techniques to minimise the effect of this funnel.

As said up top: preparing a great talk can, and should be, a lot of work, but also incredibly rewarding.

Illustration of said funnel.


Everything I could say

The total domain of your knowledge and beliefs.

Everything I want to say

The total domain of what you wish to say.

What I can realistically say

Various factors limit what you can in fact say (time, political correctness, commercial imperatives).

What the audience hears

That which was audible and discernible (microphone, slurring, misspeaking, acoustic & ambient noise).  Keep in mind audience is passive listener: it’s not up to them to listen better.  

What the audience listens to

You must give them a reason to pay attention (listen with their mind not just their ears).   

What the audience understands

Take them by the hand and don’t lose them. Make it unmistakable clear. Repeat and summarise at the end of each section of your talk.

What the audience accepts

Be convincing or your message is rejected (and then quickly forgotten.)

What the audience retains

Even if they liked what they heard, still your message subject to the vulnerabilities of human memory.   You need to make your message sticky, memorable - with a slogan, an image, a joke, a neologism, or a parable.  

What audience may later relay

Risk of misunderstanding or misrepresenting, or oversimplifying. 

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