Face to Face Communication

Or is it?

Due to a last second flight change, I was able to spend the afternoon at Media Bistro’s Circus, a conference exploring the convergence of media and technology.  

There were leaders from both “old media” and “new media” presenting throughout the day, and I could not help but focus on communication (it’s what I do). When someone is presenting I automatically go into “training and analyzing” mode. Today was no different.

There was a lot of discussion about what data may mean in 10 years, or what marketing online might look like in 5 years.  The way we communicate online will continue to change and evolve, as it has from IM to email to texting to twittering to….? 

The way we communicate offline, and make no mistake, we will continue to communicate offline, will not change as dramatically. Communication skills matter today as much as they did in the days of Cicero and Dionysius.  Those same basic interpersonal communication skills will be as important 200 years from today. 

Today I watched Stephen Baker, an author and journalist for BusinessWeek, an “old media” publication, make very compelling points in a very clear, coherent, easy to understand manner — his was one of the presentations I enjoyed the most, and he was a moderator, not a presenter! 

I watched Valeria Maltoni, the founder of ConversationAgent.com, a “new media” company, put on a very engaging and very well preparedpresentation.  I then thought about a friend, novelist Anna David (whose new book Bought is motoring up the bestseller list) who is extremely engaging when speaking and presenting her research. 

 I thought of a number of successful professionals I know, some who work in manufacturing and construction and some who work in technology; some who regularly twitter and have thousands of friends on Facebook, and some who still have trouble with the power button on an old desktop.

What they all share are excellent communication skills, passion about the subject matter, and lots of preparation prior to presenting.

One fact stands out with all of these cases, and always does — a riveting presenter captivates an audience, whether discussing a cutting edge technology or why a freezer works. 

At the same time, a speaker who doesn’t have strong public speaking skills, does not practice and does not prepare loses an audience, no matter how “cutting edge” or potentially exciting the material may be.

Today I also watched an unnamed “new media” leader use some variation of “uhh” “umm” or “ahhh” over 100 times – I stopped counting.  I have no doubt in the presenter’s competence and expertise, however the verbal noise prevented the message from getting through — not just to me, but also to a number of individuals seated around me who I watched a) text to each other b) nod off and c) return emails during the entire presentation.

You have a chance to edit online (as I constantly learn when I post here!).  I re-read emails before I hit send and I re-read text messages before I send them.  I often review and change 140 character Twitter messages prior to sending — I want to make sure I am getting the message right.  Many people I talk to do the same. 

The same opportunity exists when speaking, and it exists prior to hitting “send” — in this case, speaking. Once you say something, you said it – can’t edit it and can’t delete it.  

When presenting, you MUST spend time preparing before you speak (hopefully a lot).  Your editing occurs before you present, and a lot of your editing comes from practice — just as you re-read an email or proposal, doing some “dry runs” of your presentation allow you to see what edits you would like to make. 

No preparation = no chance to effectively deliver your message.  No matter how compelling your message might be.

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