Communicate Less to More, and More to Less

Communicate Less to More, and More to Less

As a leader, there is a simple principle that can help your communication choices immensely.

Communicate less to more, and more to less. I call this the information to audience ratio. On a certain level, the application of this principle is fairly easy.

When communicating important information to your whole organization, remember “less to more.”

Keep it high level. Hit the major highlights. Focus on the what and the why. Keep your communication “less” because you are speaking to “more” people.

When communicating to individuals or smaller groups, remember “more to less.”

You can get into the details. You can answer specific questions. You can focus on clarity to the degree that time allows. You can be “more” detailed and specific because there are “less” people involved (I know, technically it’s “fewer”).

But that’s not where this principle stops. Let’s dig in a little deeper.

Less and more are relative terms.

Less and more are relative to both the quantity and nature of the information and audience.

Here’s what I mean. Quantity is relative to the whole. Five isn’t very many people…unless that’s your whole organization. And two hundred is a large group of people…unless your organization is made up of thousands. It’s possible that the five people qualify as “more” and the two hundred qualify as “less.” So how do you tell?

This is where the nature of the information and audience come into play. And you can’t evaluate one without knowing the other. It has to do with whether the audience shares a common interest, or has diverse interests.

If those five people serve very distinct and different functions within the organization (diverse interests), then the information they all need to hear is going to be limited to the high level details that everyone needs to hear. Less to more (even though there are only five).

If the two hundred all perform essentially the same function within the organization (let’s say they all are customer service reps and therefore share a common interest), then the information they all need to hear can be very detailed and specific. More to less.

Is this making sense? In other words, you have to know a little bit about the audience in order to apply this principle. Does your audience qualify as “more” or “less?” Adjust your information accordingly.

But it can actually help you in reverse. Do you have a lot of information that needs to be communicated? Then ask yourself which people, departments, divisions, etc., need to know the information you need to communicate and adjust your communication plan accordingly. Is it something everyone needs to know? Then you can hit them all at once. Is it more specific to one or two areas of the organization? Then focus on them. Don’t bore people unnecessarily with details that don’t pertain to them.

An Example.

Your “homepage” should contain the high level view of your organization and what you do. Visitors can click links to dig deeper if they wish, but you have to represent the core of who you are and what you do on one page. Why? Because it is the place most of your visitors will hit first. And your visitors have diverse interests. Therefore, your homepage should be an example of less to more.

How might understanding this information to audience ratio help you?
What other factors do you consider when developing communication plans?
How else might this principle apply?

PS – I believe I adapted the phrase “less to more, more to less” from Kem Meyer’s book Less Clutter. Less Noise. It’s a great book for organizational communicators and I highly recommend it.