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Christmas round robins – an exercise in poor communication

‘Tis the season of the round robin – the time of year when some people feel inclined to write to friends and relatives with an update on their adventures and misfortunes of the past 12 months. And what a communication minefield that is.

The starting point for any piece of communication, whether verbal, face to face or in print, is the audience. If you put them at the centre of your preparation, you will deliver content which is relevant, engaging and memorable. And, crucially, you will adopt the correct tone – vital in keeping your audience on-side.

If your starting point is not the audience but rather ‘what do I want to say?’ (as with most round robins and very many corporate presentations), your communication is likely to misfire. It may end up as a stream of consciousness filled with details of children’s academic and sporting achievements, career highs, lavish holidays and fabulous parties (to which you weren’t invited). In short, untargeted content, delivered in a potentially alienating tone.

Conversely, they can be missives of doom and decline – I received one which told of a divorce, a terminal illness, a nervous breakdown, a parent with Alzheimer’s, a child who’d dropped out of university and a teenage pregnancy. Inappropriate in content and unsuitable in tone.

So, Santa, this Christmas, please could you rewrite all the round robins?