I just returned from my 25th college reunion this past weekend, and yes… it was fun and exhausting, and a wonderful walk down memory lane. I spent time with great friends who I see regularly, occasionally and almost never, and all of it was amazing.
Every reunion contains countless “so what have you been up to” conversations. Some people want to hear what you have to say, and some just ask because that is what you do at reunions. So, in a way, reunions are the ultimate chance to practice your “get to the point quickly and in an interesting way” skills. Obviously, I thought about that a bit on the train down to Washington DC on Friday… the ability to quickly explain what we do in a way that won’t make people’s eyes glaze over is a pretty important skill at The Latimer Group!
So my short answer was, “We teach people to get to the point and be persuasive,” which is not exactly a typical answer like, “lawyer,” “doctor,” “finance,” “accountant,” etc.
A few people asked a follow-up question or two, and the follow-up answer was “we teach workshops and do executive coaching around clear communication skills, like presentations, sales communication, stuff like that.”
And it was funny… as soon as someone heard the word “presentation” they perked up and said something like “oh, so you teach presentation skills, like body language, and hand gestures?”
Which is my real point today… a LOT of people have a complete misunderstanding of what makes great communication skills. Many people think the most important things are the body language, the radio voice, the laser-like eye contact, or never putting your hands in your pocket. We hear that all the time. But this is a mistake. All of those things matter, sure. Yes, they matter.
But other things matter a lot more, like messaging, clarity, the ability to get to the point, and the discipline to do your homework and try to understand the audience. What matters most, in almost every organization, is WHAT you say. HOW you say it matters, yes, but if the WHAT is not clear and not compelling, then the HOW won’t matter all that much. We think it is important that you always remember to spend your preparation time focused on clarity of message and how to make the message as interesting and valuable to the audience as possible.
So, the reunion was great. I reconnected with so many great people. And the inevitable rhythm of conversation at a reunion was a great case study in how to explain something in simple, clear and interesting ways.
Have a great day.