What I’m reading: my top go-to effective communication books

What I’m reading: my top go-to effective communication books

Communicating effectively is a skill that must be taught and practiced. Here are five top communication books for manufacturing leaders

Patricia Hume
August 2, 2023

I read a piece the other day arguing for meditation to be taught at school. Research across a number of fields, including psychology, education and neuroscience reveal that having meditation classes in schools improves students’ academic and social skills and overall well-being. And yet, meditation classes from an early age are not compulsory in the school curriculum. It got me thinking about what we should be taught but aren’t. One of these subjects comes to mind: effective and meaningful interpersonal and group communication.

But in the spirit of lifelong learning, it’s never too late to grasp critical life skills. I’m particularly passionate about the way that education is imparted. And so I have been reading a few really excellent books about communication. Here are some I recommend and why.  

Design For How People Learn: Harness Key Principles of Learning to Enable Knowledge Retention by Julie Dirksen

The manufacturing industry can be guilty of producing lackluster and unengaging training and instructional material. We hope and pray that the learners engaged in the program retain some knowledge. But hoping and praying isn’t going to upskill our New Manufacturing Workforce. It’s why we need to design and implement more meaningful training solutions.

This is why Dirksen’s book caught my attention. She explains how people learn, process information and retain knowledge. If we understand these building blocks, then we can design more effective learning experiences.

Dirksen emphasizes the importance of understanding the learners’ needs, preferences and learning styles. If we design with the audience in mind, we will always create relevant learning materials.

I like how the book introduces practical strategies to keep learners engaged. Despite our best efforts, there will always be someone falling asleep in the room. But if we have the tools to make our content more interesting, we may just have a fully riveted audience!

I also really appreciated the real-world case studies and examples shared in the book. It’s always fascinating to see principles and theory in action, and how it “lands” among a diverse student body.

Everyday Business Storytelling: Create, Simplify, and Adapt A Visual Narrative for Any Audience by Janine Kurnoff and Lee Lazarus

What I really love about this book is its commitment to providing a simple, repeatable framework to design and present your ideas, data and insights. The authors show how this can create an authentic and persuasive story.  What I found useful were the visual display techniques to help “humanize” what you’re trying to relay.

The authors give a few important insights that I haven’t found as comprehensively in other books. These include the science of storytelling, the ‘four’ signposts of storytelling and how to craft headlines to captivate your audience.

Slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations by Nancy Duarte

This book is penned by the doyenne of visual presentation. Nancy Duarte has changed the face of storytelling and turned “death by powerpoint” on its head.

Slide:ology is regarded as a seminal book on presentation design and delivery.

Duarte emphasizes the power of visual communication in presentations. It provides guidance on creating visually appealing slides that enhance the message’s clarity and impact.

The author covers slide design principles (layout, color, typography, use of images) to create visually compelling slides. Beyond the design, the book touches upon effective presentation delivery techniques, such as public speaking and ways to keep an audience engaged.

Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences by Nancy Duarte

As you can tell, I am a fan of Nancy Duarte. She hones in on crafting powerful and impactful presentations. Luckily for readers, the book provides a storytelling framework that helps communicators structure their presentations as compelling visual stories. In addition, the book guides the readers through creating narratives that captivate and engage the audience.

I particularly like how the book prizes the forging of an emotional connection with your audience.  The book draws inspiration from Joseph Campbell’s iconic “Hero’s Journey” text. The structure of the hero’s journey can be applied to create presentations that inspire and transform audiences.

If you are a sucker for good examples, Duarte alludes to powerful presentations like famous speeches and TED talks. All of these real-life examples seek to inform new visual communication innovations in an ever-changing information landscape.

Interactive digital work instructions are among the most powerful manufacturing communication tools

I’ll give you the TLDR on the above: all communication is not equal. I see this in action every single day in the course of my work. In the manufacturing context, we have to communicate complex information to so many different people daily. Their ability to keep their jobs and excel at work hinges on how well we get these messages across. But, as any 800-page PDF manual will illustrate (despite all that text!), the sector has a major communication problem. It’s time we took a more thoughtful, deliberate and scientifically-backed approach to the way we communicate complex information in this context, starting with product content. Interactive digital work instructions can transform how your organization communicates and why. If we need to train at scale and set up employees to succeed, we need to change the way we communicate.

About the author
Patricia Hume
Chief Executive Officer

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