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 MASH, aired in 1983, and watched by over 100 million people. The most watched television show of 2019 was an episode of Big Bang Theory, which was watched by less than 25 million people. 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 do you allow yourself to multi-task on? And the average answer I hear is around 90%. Everyone does it. Fact: Remote communication makes audience connection even harder.
Truth #3: Remote platforms are our primary form of business communication right now. Perhaps you have heard, but there is a bit of a health crisis right now. The vast majority of the work force is operating remotely, which means we rarely see each other. The only way we can connect is via a platform that historically allows for high levels of distraction and multi-tasking. 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 when nearly every industry is under pressure, and no one knows how long the pandemic will last and what the economy will look like post-pandemic, that means that resources internally and externally are under more pressure than ever. Fact: Every dollar being spent right now, in every company, is getting scrutinized harder than at any other time in most of our lifetimes, including the 2008 financial crisis and post 9/11.
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.
Second, you better dial up your preparation. Showing up unprepared is an invitation to be ignored, and a blow to your credibility.
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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