Signposting: An Effective Communication Tool!

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Definition of Signposting

The dictionary defines signposting as, “An indication, sign, or guide.” When we communicate with people we need to include these cues for effective dialogue.

Let’s say you are driving down the road in a strange city looking for a building and the streets have no signs. Assuming you didn’t have a GPS, you would feel completely lost. Signs are posted on streets to provide guidance. We need to have these signposts in our conversations to avoid people from feeling lost

Signposting is a technique to help people follow the meaning of what you are saying throughout a conversation. You also help people organize what you are saying to them. I am sure we all have had conversations where people seem to be going in all sorts of directions and we can’t follow them. They are NOT using signposting — they are not guiding us from topic to topic.

Signposting to Open Conversations

Rather than just abruptly starting conversations, signposting helps you make a smooth entrance. Here are some examples of using signposting to begin conversations:

* Today, let’s start by discussing the new project …

* First of all, we need to address the meeting with HR …

Signposting can also be used in the beginning to set the stage for the rest of the conversation:

* Today, we need to address three areas. First, we need to talk about the IT seminar. Next, we’ll address the issues with new office polices. Finally, we’ll review the agenda for the annual retreat.

* I will first talk about your stomach pain, then I will examine you. Afterwards, we’ll discuss treatment options.

Signposting as a Transition Tool in Conversations

Signposting can be used to make smooth transitions from one topic to another.

* It looks like we are now ready to begin discussing the updated employee benefit package …

* I have given you all the data regarding the XYZ project, now I am ready to move on to discuss our quarterly goals …

* Next, let’s review the proposal to add the continuing education programs to ….

Signposting to Close Conversations

This allows for cues that you are completing your comments. If you begin discussing closing remarks without letting people know you are finishing, they may be expecting more information. Here are examples:

* In conclusion, I believe we are now ready to implement ….

* At this time, I would like to summarize our discussion …

I will use signposting to conclude this article! In summary, we have seen that signposting is a powerful tool to help people follow what we are saying. Providing people cues allows for conversations that flow. Add signposting to all your conversations and become a master communicator!

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Edward Leigh, MA, is the Founder and Director of the Center for Healthcare Communication.  He is the author of the book, Communicating with Patients (due out in the summer of 2009). For more information about his high-impact communication skills programs, visit or call: http://www.CommunicatingWithPatients.com or call 1-800-677-3256

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