Learning actionable communication… from a bicycle parking

You are hurrying towards your train and have just enough time to park your bike in the guarded bike parking of the station. But, wait… will it still be open tonight when you return from your dinner party? You glance at the sign that has the parking’s opening hours.


Realizing it’s a Saturday, you now know that it’s open from 5.30 – 1.30 h. Argh, 1.30 h? Will you make that if you return with the last train? Luckily, the creators of the sign were one step ahead of you as they added a smart and elegant way of presenting the same information to the actual sign:

They included a very user-friendly rendition of the opening times:

Accessible daily from 15 minutes before the first train departure until 15 minutes after the last train arrival.

Now, here we have some very actionable communication; it’s exactly what 95% of the readers of the sign is interested in knowing to decide on their actions. Spelled out for you, so you don’t have to compare train times to opening hours yourself.

Writing actionable text is a great way of adapting to your audience, one of the four communication principles we use at Analytic Storytelling. Shaping your communication in this way is kind to your audience and thus also good for you: you increase the chance that your audience acts in the way you propose. Be it: implementing your idea, taking your advice, following your strategy or, parking in your bicycle parking.

So next time you communicate, think: what action do I want my audience to take? And what steps do they need to go through, to do that? Try to stand in their shoes a bit, or even better: ask them what the steps are. Then shape your communication in such a way that makes it as easy as possible for your audience to take these steps.


Stijn is director, trainer and advisor at Analytic Storytelling. We help people to make content-driven stories. That is: clear and compelling communication on complex content.