Reading Chris Batt’s wonderful memoir of Bob McKee in Aslib’s recent ‘Managing Information’ (Vol.17 I.5, p.5), I was struck by the concept of the “McKee Triangle”. In Chris’ words:
“Bob invariably had three points that were the apexes and he would then explore the relationships between them. It was a metaphor that, across the next fifteen years, remained as convincing to me as the first time I heard him use it. Three good points should be enough to justify any argument. The ace communicator strikes again.”
Such a simple piece of advice – take just three points, examine them properly and explain them fully – but one which really resonated with me. I tend to brainstorm a problem/issue/concept to find as many persuasive points as possible, and then try to present as many as I possibly can in the time/space available. I have even been known to resort to bullet-pointed lists of everything I’ve come up with, both to make sure that nothing gets left out and to demonstrate to my audience that I’ve at least tried to cover all the bases.
How much more powerful it would be to just focus on the three key issues at stake. I guess the brainstorming needs to happen in order to help identify what these are, but then to have the confidence to step away from it all and take a cool look at the real priorities – I can see how that would lead to a much more focussed, pertinent and persuasive argument. I’m definitely going to try it next time.
Another good tip in the same issue (from Graham Coult, in a generally thought-provoking article entitled ‘Dealing with recession’, pp.50-54), and which I will also be trying to implement in my own communications, is “the importance of ‘therefore'”. I can think of several occsaions recently when I’ve been advocating various good things about my library and have fallen into the “it’s good because it it” trap. Making your argument more explicit by thinking in terms of “we do x, therefore you benefit from y” allows for the creation of a much more powerful approach, as in one of Graham’s examples: “We have expertise in evaluating information sources therefore we can save you time on internet searches by pointing you to the best information sources making you more productive.”
Graham’s article ends with a call for library and information success stories – apparently he and the Managing Information team are compiling a file of these to use in lobbying, morale-boosting etc. This made me think of the Voices for the Library project – it’s great to see LIS advocacy in action from several different angles (and clearly the more angles we approach this from the more the message of the value of libraries will escape the echo chamber and pervade the wider world).
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