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Guidebook 22 Communicating the Value of Transportation Research Style Treating the presentation as a conversation with the audience returns the focus to the interactivity What Is Style? that face-to-face communication highlights. The slides become a visual aid--a way to explain a Style is an important element complicated point or to visually demonstrate of communication. As the either the problem at hand or the possible "physical wrapping" or the distinguishing features outcome of implementing a specific solution. of communication, style can be thought of as Similarly, a written document that includes color, the packaging of the communication; but it photographs, and interesting (but readable) is frequently overlooked. As the most visible type will add dimension and life to the words aspect of this packaging, such physical features in the document. Creativity is what makes your as design, layout, color, and typeface for printed message memorable. It can also help stimulate materials affect how the audience perceives your audience to believe in the importance of and values the message. How the message your research or to take an action recommended looks, feels, and sounds will influence every by your results. encounter between an audience member and the transportation research advocate. Whether written or spoken, style is the polish of your communication. It can help you achieve your "The physical attributes of a research goals. document or tone of a presentation can communicate as much to the Why Is Style Important? audience as the words themselves." Style is important because the physical attributes of a document or tone of a presentation can communicate as much to the audience as With creativity, however, comes the the words themselves. A presentation with responsibility for appropriate tone within the graphics and a consistent theme throughout communication. Your audience has expectations will communicate professionalism, pride in for communication content, and to violate the research program, and confidence that it those expectations can be detrimental to the will succeed. Conversely, speakers who appear acceptance of your message. disheveled and who read highlighted lines from a research paper will effectively tell the audience that they do not take the presentation seriously Consider, for example, a toast. We, as the and do not value the audience. audience, expect glowing things to be said about the toastee, and we expect it to be brief. We expect news anchors to have a serious Whether focused on written or oral demeanor when discussing a crime or tragedy, communication, consider the importance and and we expect sportscasters to be energetic and impact that creativity can make on the reception upbeat in their reports. The same is true when you of a message. For example, we have all sat plan and deliver your research communications. through PowerPoint presentations in which Think about and meet the expectations of your the slides lacked clear graphics (other than a audience. few difficult-to-read charts or tables) and the presenter read the content of each slide to the audience. Because no attempt to engage the audience is made, it is difficult for us to remember the message or the point of the communication.
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Guidebook 23 The Communication Process While a serious, scientific tone may be appropriate when communicating with technical Signs of Good Graphics experts, the general public needs a tone that is more conversational in nature. All of these In Transportation Research Record, No. considerations will ensure that the audience has 2046, Bremmer and Bryan (2008) showcase a positive attitude toward you and your message the Washington State Department of and therefore will be more likely to accept the Transportation's use of "performance fundamental importance of your research. journalism" as its approach for communicating performance measures to a variety of audiences. They state the foundation for How Is Style Used Effectively? effective performance communication includes clear writing and storytelling, effective graphic With such emphasis placed on the packaging and presentation of data, and rigorous data polish of your message, it is important to consider analysis and data quality control. Along with the following suggestions: clear examples and instruction, they outline the signs of good graphics: Use clear, concrete, and specific language. Are quickly comprehended and Write or talk about tangible people, understood by the reader. places, events, and outcomes to claim Are relevant to the data and topic. and retain your audience's attention. Not Are formatted with a sense of balance, only will clear and concrete words help proportion, and clarity of design. you relate to your audience, but specific, Can stand out on their own (without unambiguous language will help prevent accompanying text) if lifted from the misunderstandings and increase the page. persuasiveness of your message. Have data, analysis, and scale integrity. Adapt to your audience. Adjust Answer some fundamental questions. the formality of your tone and the sophistication of your message to reflect The quality of your charts, graphs, and visual the context and knowledge level of the tools are important components in telling audience. The tone of a research report your research story. Keep these signs of good is different from that of a public service graphics in mind as you use these elements to announcement, and experts in the field convey data to your audience. will better understand the nuanced complexities of your plan or proposal than a Source: Transportation Research Record: Journal broad-based or general audience will. of the Transportation Research Board, No. 2046, "Bridging the Gap Between Agencies and Citizens." Use visual aids and graphics that enhance your message. Charts and tables can be extremely useful to demonstrate statistics Make use of "white space." Break up large or trends, and pictures and graphics can blocks of text by inserting graphics or bring energy to pictures. Do not, however, feel pressured to written and oral fill every inch of a document or fact sheet communication. with something. White space provides Choose charts, visual breaks and helps distinguish between tables, and graphs bullet points, provides visual cues to a that have clear change in subjects or themes in the text, relevance to the topic at hand. Remember and makes the message readable by that the goal is to enhance your message, reducing the chance of visual overload in not to divert attention from it. the audience.
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Guidebook 24 Communicating the Value of Transportation Research Use the resources available to you. whose style you value, and make note of Whenever possible, consult your in- particularly effective presentations you see house communication professionals or a at conferences, lectures, or seminars. graphic designer or professional speech Allow proven communication experience to coach to help create the best possible be your guide. package for your communications. While Whether creating a written document or a such consultation is ideal, it is not always presentation, polish is the key. Edit all written practical because of time or budget text for clarity and specificity, keep all graphics constraints. You can get ideas for color relevant and readable, and practice presentations schemes and graphic design by using in front of an audience. Taking these steps will the templates included in most design or not only make your message visually or aurally presentation software. Also, look at web appealing, it will also help your audience connect sites for other projects or programs, listen to and be persuaded by your communication to other speakers or seek advice from those efforts in support of your research. Oregon Mileage Fee Concept and Road User Fee Pilot Program The Oregon Road User Fee Pilot Program generated a large amount of national and international interest. Mileage-based fees are new and are considered experimental and innovative. For this reason, the Oregon DOT (ODOT) and the Road User Fee Task Force deliberately chose to reach out to the public, not to generate publicity, but to ensure understanding of why Oregon was pursuing this. This public education was done with an understanding that the motoring public will not respond positively to change quickly and will need time to accept the nature of the problem and become comfortable with viable solutions. The task force and ODOT relied on the website (http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/HWY/RUFPP/ mileage.shtml, accessed October 10, 2008) as the primary vehicle for an exchange of information, but also relied on oral and face-to-face communication to support public outreach, including: Open meetings of the task force. Geographically diverse public hearings. A focus group. Openness and access to the media. Specific outreach to representatives of the retail fueling station industry. Presentations to stakeholder groups. Presentations to transportation professionals. Presentations to state and local government entities. Information provided to other jurisdictions (states, nations, and localities) when requested.