For information on all of Danny’s career workshops, go here.
Southwest Airlines had a problem: how does the company make sure its 46,000 employees read important memos and announcements?
So many people at Southwest have fast-moving jobs and little time for long-winded corporate directives. For instance, customer service agents in a hectic terminal, flight attendants up and down the aisle and pilots flying this way and that. What would capture their attention?
In April 2014, I received an email from Melanie Jones, a member of the Southwest communications department, who asked if I could help her team write more concise messages. As you might expect, I said I was up for the job 🙂
Two months later, I found myself at the Southwest HQ in Dallas conducting a two-hour workshop on stronger writing and editing. The entire experience was a thrill – Southwest is such a legendary company, and I was honored to work with its communications team. Here’s how the day went down.
“Last week, I had a team member edit something for me, and he used the techniques we learned in Danny’s workshop. To me, that’s success!” — Southwest communications team member
My day at Southwest Airlines
Smartly, the Southwest internal communications team, about a 30-person group, set aside an entire day to find ways to improve how it reaches employees with company-wide information. I had a two-hour window in the early afternoon to lead the team through a writing workshop.
My seminar happened right after a heavy lunch. I knew I had to bring the energy.
I began the workshop with what I have dubbed the “5 Principles of Concise, Effective Writing.”
1) Remove excess words
2) Removes excess ideas
3) Let someone else read your work
4) Print out your work
5) When appropriate, tell a story
Each “Principle” is a hands-on activity that kept the Southwest group engaged. After all five lessons, we then worked on a challenge specific to the company: how to restructure internal memos to capture the reader’s attention and interest within 10 seconds.
The workshop made the communications team members rethink the words and phrases they commonly use in company memos. During Principle #2 (Remove excess ideas), I made everyone cut at least 100 unnecessary words from their own documents. One person, after the exercise, said “I realized so much of my writing is excess that I almost have nothing left!”
That’s the idea.
Throughout the workshop, I observed several “aha!” editing moments among the crowd. Plus, the “5 Principles” packet serves as a great booklet for employees to reference later.
I enjoy the chance to roll up my sleeves and work with employees on their writing. Few people know how to say a lot with a little yet it’s such an important skill in our Twitter-obsessed, attention-starved culture.
How can I help your company with its communications challenges?
Read about all of my career workshops here.
If you have questions, contact me, and let’s talk!