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Confidence, resonance and shellac – how to communicate like a pro

My great passion is communication (after George Clooney obviously), and I’m always fascinated to see good and bad practice outside the corporate world which I can bring to the training room.

This month, I’ve come across great examples in unexpected places: on the dance floor, in the nail bar and in my living room. All of them reminders of some of the essentials of excellent communication – confidence, relevant content, clear structure and appropriate packaging.

In BBC1’s recent The Greatest Dancer (very good, by the way. Worth a visit to iPlayer) a talented classical ballet dancer performed for the live audience to try to win their votes. His skill was unquestionable but he failed to impress and was eliminated from the competition, much to the horror of the dance captains and presenters (and us). Was it because he danced to classical music and wore a classical costume? I wonder if the issue was not talent but packaging. Might he have resonated better with the audience if his music and costume had been more modern? It’s just the same in the corporate world – you can have fabulous content (data, facts, case studies) but if you don’t bring it to life in a way that is appropriate for those people in front of you, you too might be booted off the stage with your tutu between your legs.

But of course it’s not just the packaging which needs to be tailored, so too the content itself. A couple of weeks ago, I went to a presentation on ‘personal safety’ from which I was expecting interesting and practical tips for my 14 year old daughter. The first relevant content appeared 59 minutes in to the talk! Up to that point there was only material which was of interest to a different audience entirely – companies and working adults. We, parents of teenagers, felt cheated and disrespected. Our time had been wasted. So let’s be careful in the board room and on the conference stage that we only ever offer material which is tailored to the audience in front of us. Don’t tell them what you’re interested in – tell them what they might be interested in.

From personal safety to personal grooming – my new passion as a counterbalance to Brexit. One of our small building blocks of confidence and gravitas is how we look/what we wear. For you it might be a pair of lucky undies, an expensive shirt (a client was anxious about a meeting at Number 10. He bought a new shirt and reported that it had definitely boosted his confidence). For me, it’s now shellac nails!!!  And I’m not even joking.

Just as messy nails dent my confidence so messy notes lead to poor communication. I was perplexed the other day when a client delivered an incoherent, illogical, rambling presentation to me after we’d spent time together finessing the content and honing the structure. Then I looked at his notes and I saw the problem. The page was a spider’s web of arrows, crossings out and scribbles. In that instant I realised the importance of clear, neat notes and legible writing.

It may be that we have to go through several iterations to get just the right words and precisely the correct order. But that will be time well spent if it leads to greater confidence and a better performance. As is time spent at the nail bar……