The Productive Ploy of Pursuing the Point

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What is most important tactical communication challenge facing professionals in a complex compliance environment?

Considering the number of topics one could choose to delve into for the purpose of making a sage observation on the general topic of business communications, or in this case specifically tactical compliance communications, one has a tendency to fluctuate between myriad subjects while seeking counsel and advice as to which topic may be the most advantageous to the reader.  For example, the great French playwright Moliere, who was born Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, while known for his brilliant comedies, would often seek the advice of his fellow actors and theatre friends before he ever set pen to paper to write even the simplest of letters. This historical supposition has been the subject of great scrutiny over the years as many scholars dispute whether Moliere was much of a letter writer at all.  However, he did often journey around France and the rest of Europe in his role as famous figure of the mid to late seventeenth century stage, which of course brings us back to a defining position that life is a journey.  So say the poets, philosophers and pundits.  Along the way there are many interim destinations; those places we seek out as points of interest, strategic objectives or wayside oasis for needed respite.  The same might be said for communication challenges.

Obviously, the greatest challenge demonstrated here is getting to the point.  Sometimes the challenge is to have any point at all.  

The compliance environment is too fast paced and too important to waste time on unnecessary communications.  Leave the rhetoric and the long-winded explanation to those who do that for a living like talk show hosts and politicians.  If you want to earn the respect and support of your management, peers, and staff, being clear, concise and “on topic” is often the best tactic of all.

Here are a few pointers on getting to the point:

  • Begin an answer with the answer. “Yes,” “no,” “I don’t know,” “I haven’t reached a decision yet,” “the Federal Reserve” and “one hundred and sixteen” are excellent examples of direct responses. 
  • Some things absolutely require an explanation. Always be prepared to provide it—after you have made your point.
  • If anything requires an explanation or a caveat, make it short, understandable and relevant.
  • If the path to an answer or a decision has no intrinsic value, don’t provide it.  It may be interesting to you, but likely the audience just needs an answer.
  • Beware of making presentations that have the line “and that brings me to my point” any time after the first thirty seconds (maybe a minute, if you have a really good “on topic” anecdote to lead off).
  • Executive summaries, opening paragraphs, the first few sentences of a conversation are all excellent place to put your “point.”
  • How do you know if you are “getting to the point” challenged?  Ever have anybody ask you what your point is?  That’s what is often called a clue that there is an issue..

Getting to the point quickly is not always easy.  It often requires preparation.  It also requires familiarity with the subject.  It does not give you the luxury of stalling until an answer can be found or a decision made.  However, it will be greatly appreciated by your co-workers, regulators and law enforcement officials.  As a classic TV police officer often said, “just the facts, please.” That’s an excellent point to remember.

Have a compliance communication issue you want to address, or perhaps a best practice or war story of your own that you’d like to share with your fellow compliance professionals? Send it in to Our goal is to help everyone become better communicators. We’d love to have you contribute to this effort.

The AML Compliance Communications Toolkit is written by Ed Beemer, an Accredited Public Relations professional (APR) and a CAMS. 

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