By Anna Jester
Years ago, I was working for a communication consultancy in London and I visited a big construction project that one of our clients was leading. I was there to spend some time with the CEO, working on thought leadership and messaging. He was there for a variety of reasons that day, including the half an hour with me at the end of it all.
I remember the day so well because it was one of the first times I had been truly wowed by the power of great communication. Whether it was chatting with the site workers in the mess room, motivating the senior management team at what was a very difficult time for the project or simply listening to the concerns of the project manager – this guy was like a communication chameleon. He found a way to communicate exactly what the person or people in front of him needed – in the way they needed it. And the effect was palpable.
When it finally came to my 30 minutes with the CEO at the end of the day, I had to ask him how he did it and I’ll never forget what he said to me. He said “with immense difficulty.”
Many of us will look at brilliant communicators and feel in awe at their ease of delivery, natural style and instinctive nouse for a great opportunity to land their message. Often we think something along the lines of, “I’d love to be a natural communicator like that.”
The thing is – 99 per cent of the time, the reality is that there’s not a fat lot that’s natural about it and it’s actually down to years of practise, rigorous self awareness and meticulous planning. That whole thing of winging it? I’m afraid it’s a myth (in the main). If you want to communicate with impact, you’ve got to put in the graft.
As my CEO proved on that site visit, great communication is so much more than landing a presentation once a month – it’s about continuous exchange, moments of connection, mastering nuance, the said and the unsaid. It’s about the first word you say when you walk into your place of work in the morning to the way you sign off at the end of the day. And everything in between. In other words, brilliant communicators are what we like to call ‘always on’.
So what’s the key to ‘always on’ communication? Here’s my top ten tips to get you started.
Being a brilliant communicator is never about not being you. It’s about being your very best you, and always being self aware. A little bit like what they say about running a marathon, anyone can become a brilliant communicator – by working at it, working at it, and working at it a little more. And when you do become a brilliant communicator, it will undoubtedly change your career – but it will also change your life.