In business communication, while some repetition works extremely well to get your message across, too much of it makes you sound “repetitive” to your audience. Striking the right balance for repetition is something you might need to develop an ear for, but you can also use the tactic of reframing to make sure you’re not saying the same thing over and over.
What does “good” repetition look like? In a recent blog series, I talked about the Information Sandwich in which you start out addressing at a high level what you’re trying to communicate and then recap the same ideas as you end. Most recipients of business communications find this type of intentional, structured repetition to work well in helping them process information efficiently.
Good repetition balance: you know it when you see it
But outside of the Information Sandwich, it can be tough to figure out the right amount of repetition to include in an email or a presentation. I think that “good” repetition, in large part, comes down to balance. If you don’t have any repetition, your audience will have trouble picking up on the structure and themes in your communication. Repeat too much, and your audience will feel you’re hitting them over the head with that structure and those themes. The right amount of repetition falls in that bucket of things in this world that are “hard to define but you know it when you see it.”
If you haven’t yet developed the eye or the ear for knowing when you’re striking that right repetition balance, don’t despair. If that’s your case, work on raising your awareness level; become a student of repetition. Notice how much other people repeat things—in their emails, in their meeting updates, in their presentations. Are they doing it intentionally or without realizing it? Do they repeat to help their audience understand structure? Do they repeat some ideas to drive them home like a pop song repeats the hook or the chorus? What are people doing when it just feels like “too much” repetition?
If it’s not in their language, hearing it 5 times the same way won’t help
Here’s another idea to consider in relation to repetition: Different people process ideas in different ways. So if you have a diverse audience, you might want to say the same thing in different ways. In other words, reframe the idea so that you’re conveying it in a language they can understand more easily. This article from grammarly.com titled 9 Tips for Effective Communication in the Workplace addresses—among other ideas—the need to state key points a few different ways.
I help many of my coaching clients with this very skill. If you’re a technical expert, you’re going to need to communicate ideas differently to a fellow techie than you would to someone from upper management or from the finance group. If you try to say it in your “language,” and they’re not getting it, saying it five more times in your technical language may not help them. Maybe you use a metaphor that they can relate to. Or maybe you put the information in some visual form rather than using words. And if you don’t know exactly what language(s) your audience speaks, you probably want to repeat your idea by reframing it multiple times.
Strategic repetition can help people get your message, but if you end up sounding repetitive, you’ll lose them. To use repetition effectively in your business communication, develop an ear for good repetition balance, and reframe your ideas in different ways that will help them land with different types of audiences. Do you want me to repeat that? 🙂
Guillermo Villar is principal coach with Cambio Coaching. He helps high-achieving individuals and teams communicate with intention to get the business results they want. If you’re interested in working with Guillermo, sign up for a free meeting to explore how he can help.