What does the world of communication look like right now? What are the barriers to getting our point across today, at this moment in time? There are a bunch, and none of them are inconsequential.
Truth #1: The world continues to be a really noisy place. There are lots of people and things competing for attention span and mind share, and it is a lot harder than ever to be heard. Here’s a fun little way to prove the point. According to the Nielsen Ratings, of the top 20 most watched television sit-coms of all time in the United States, the most recent aired in May 1998 (Seinfeld finale). And the most viewed television show of all time was the final episode of M*A*S*H, aired in 1983, and watched by over 100 million people. Highly popular shows today hope for 10 million viewers. Fact: It is a lot harder to connect and capture attention than it used to be.
Truth #2: Remote platforms allow for a high level of distraction. I will simply refer to some informal polling I have done over the last ten years. In every workshop I have ever taught, I always ask the following question: What percentage of conference calls or video meetings do you allow yourself to multi-task on? And the average answer I hear is around 90%. Everyone does it, and this has always been true, even before we all stopped going to the office. Fact: Remote communication makes audience connection extremely hard.
Truth #3: Remote platforms are our primary form of business communication right now. With the vast majority of the work force still operating remotely, we continue to rarely see each other, and connecting via remote platforms remains the overwhelming norm. And virtual platforms have always had historically high levels of distraction and multi-tasking, under any circumstances. Fact: When remote platforms are your only option, audience connection is even harder. (Do you see a trend here?)
Truth #4: A challenging economy means there is even more competition for sales, resources and support. Even under the best of circumstances, getting internal support for your idea or project was hard. And external sales is never easy. But in an economy that seems strong in some ways, but remains questionable in others, spending decisions continue to be heavily scrutinized. Every company has the scar tissue left over from Q2 and Q3 2020, and everyone remembers how quickly the world changed. Which means there will continue to be some spending PTSD for many organizations, for a long time. Fact: Every dollar being spent right now, in every company, is getting scrutinized hard, and this will continue for a while.
So let me summarize all of that for you. We live in an era of heavy distraction, remote platforms have always made it harder to capture attention, remote platforms are all we have right now, and it is harder than ever to get people or companies to say “yes.”
In other words, your communication skills have never been more important than they are right now.
So what do you do about it?
First, realize that your communication skills are not a “soft skill” anymore. They are a mission critical power skill. They are not a “nice to have.” They are a “must have.”
Second, you better dial up your preparation. Showing up unprepared is an invitation to be ignored, and a blow to your credibility. And preparation not only includes what you want to say and how you will say it. But it also includes specific preparation on how you will engage your audience and connect with them in a virtual environment.
Third, you better take a realistic inventory of your communication tool box, and work on some skill building.
There has never been a more important time to be good at this.
Good luck and have a great day.
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