Efficient communication that avoids overloading students or staff

By miranda.prynne, 13 January, 2021
Constant upheaval has left many university staff and students feeling overwhelmed. Wendy Zajack talks through basic principles for keeping digital communications clear and concise to avoid information overload
Article type

This video will cover: 

01:20 Understanding the different groups you are communicating with and their needs 

02:12 Repeat important messages more than feels necessary 

03:16 Keep messages and instructions simple, clear and easy to follow 


Hi, I’m Wendy Zajack. I’m a faculty director and an assistant professor of the practice at Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies.  

And I wanted to talk today about some advice I have, as we move into a new year, for effective communication both with students and with our staff that can help them not be overwhelmed or feel like they’re just kind of out of control.  

And obviously in 2020 I think we all experienced that feeling, probably many times. So, here are four tips, real simple, to keep you kind of making sure that you’re on point with your communication this year.  

So, I just finished teaching a business communication class this semester, so near and dear to my heart.   

I also spent, before I became a professor, my corporate career in communications and marketing, working for large multinational organisations, so lots of these apply in either sector.  

But I think good communication actually is usually fairly simple and intuitive. We just have to remember to sort of get back to our basics and what we’re trying to communicate.  

So, my rule number one is remember your audience. So, think about who you’re communicating to.  Think about where they are when they receive your communication.  

This is really important, especially with students, if you’re working with undergrad populations. I work with masters populations so their ages can be very different, but really thinking about where are they, where do they like to receive their communication, and how do they like to receive their communication is really, I think, first and foremost the best way to make it effective.  

So is it by text? Is it by email? Is it by a voice kind of audio thing? So, thinking about that, and thinking about who they are and what type of message, I think, is number one.  

And that’s in any communication. I think the other point that’s really critical is repetition.   

This is so easy to forget because we feel like we’re repeating things a million times, but what I've said to many, many a corporate executive is at the point that you are feeling completely tired and sick of your message, it’s probably the point that someone in your audience is hearing it for the first time.  

So, repeat, repeat, repeat.  

I think for student communication this is really true. Put it in the syllabus, make an announcement about it. I know it can feel like coddling at times, but I think just given the state of communication and the number of channels and the number of messages we’re all being bombarded with, if it’s important, repeat it, and repeat it often.  

It’s just a normal part of being a human being. I don’t even think that it’s showing that we are not caring about things.  

I just think it’s the state of the world and the state of communication and the state of information that we have to repeat things a lot.   

So, remember your audience, repeat. And then the other point is keep it really simple. So good communication to me is simple communication. I think it is way harder to construct a message that’s very clear and concise.  

But spend some time editing, spend some time bulleting and highlighting the things that are really critical for your audience and say everything in a very simple way.  

This is not the time to show off your amazing vocabulary. I think good communication is using really simple words, really accessible words, and words that are understandable easily and don’t need a lot of explanation.  

And then the last point, I think, in terms of managing overflow and managing stress, make everything really easy for your audience.   

When you’re communicating something, put in a link that shows them where they can go for information.   

If you have the opportunity in your syllabus, in the learning management system, put in a calendar invite or a calendar link so that it shows up in their calendar.  

I think that makes it easy for them to understand what you are asking them to do, and then makes it easy for them to do it.   

So four simple tips: remember your audience, repeat, keep it simple, and make it easy.   

And I think that will help you out as we move into another year – and hopefully a successful year. 


This video was produced by Wendy Zajack, faculty director and assistant professor of the practice at Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies. 

Constant upheaval has left many university staff and students feeling overwhelmed. Wendy Zajack talks through basic principles for keeping digital communications clear and concise to avoid information overload