Communication Breakdown

The art of articulation

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- being able to articulate what you do personally or in business is just about the most important skill you can develop. Sounds obvious huh? Well I am constantly being shocked just how bad people are at it. The age of the ‘Shrinking Violet’ is gone!

What exactly do I mean? Well, put it this way, just about every thing in life as a business person either employed or as a business owner is going to not only require you to tell people what you do- but it also requires you to ‘sell’ yourself. This does not have to be verbally I might add, as being articulate in things like a business plan can mean the difference between one that might actually be read- to one that ends up in the ‘no’ pile. You have a CV that is hard to read? In the bin it goes….

Great Communicators Needed!

A couple of experiences recently have heighted my thinking about this. I was a speaker at a recent All Party Parliamentary Group on Micro Business chaired by Anna Marie-Morris MP, to answer a simple question ‘How can those in HE/FE be better prepared for business?’- My No. 1 answer, Make young people great communicators from a very young age– Simple. I noticed a problem some time ago when I have been involved in judging entrepreneur and business competitions.  In my experience of written applications, very few people are actually good at getting things down on paper- either they just don’t know how to, or they have some kind of ridiculous ego that makes them think people will understand what their business does in one sentence. When people open their mouths- the same thing is true, and that’s if they open their mouth in the first place. It’s not the fault of young people- in fact its not really anyone’s fault, but the chance to practice communicating at school, college and beyond seems to have quietly slipped away, until that is, you suddenly need it. Then you suddenly realize that you don’t know what you don’t know!

What’s Gone Wrong?

The problem is, just about everything stems from being able to articulate yourself and communicate in business. Sales are the most obvious of course, but there is a list as long as your arm of vital functions that require a high degree of skills in communication. Even telephone manner could be the difference between success and failure. I have lost count of the number of times I have said “if you can’t sell me your business idea, how on earth are you going to sell a product or service to a customer?”.  It’s got me concerned. I gave a talk to some university students on an entrepreneurship module recently, and trying to get them to speak or answer anything was a real challenge- almost no-one was outgoing or wanted to talk about their ideas when given the opportunity. Why is that? It seems from a little digging that the ability to get up and communicate is something that schools do not encourage anymore- so people are not used to it. For example, the days of debating clubs & societies are no longer, pupils are apparently not pushed in ‘discomfort zones’ and made to speak in front of people as often as they should be, so the ability to practice and hone the skills of communication are lost.

So where do we go from here? I’m fascinated to hear your experiences of this- and you can tweet them to me on @stujbanderson. I’m gunning to do something about it, and ensure we have a nation of communicators who are aching to sell themselves or their business to you!

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