It’s often said that the greatest fear people admit to is that of public speaking. Yet it never ceases to amaze me the number of people who are willing to conquer this fear just to communicate the ideas they are passionate about. Most business people are passionate, about their product, invention or service. Their passion for business carries them through many the pitfalls of running a business: cash flow, VAT, annual accounts, tax returns and even unreasonable, difficult customers. I’m sure it hasn’t escaped everyone’s notice that all these facts of running a business require good communication skills.
Most person specifications for employment lists communications skills as necessary and running a business is no different, except that, it can be dangerous to take this seemingly simple skill for granted. Channel 4’s Undercover Boss featuring the energy company Npower demonstrates the importance of business communication, not just externally with the customers (they were rated the worst of all utility companies for customer service) but also internally with their employees. During the programme, the COO admitted that he had not communicated properly with the employees regarding the coming closures of coal pits, which was essential due to EU rules. He saw the impact this lack of communication was having on the employees’ morale and personal life.
All this obviously has a financial impact on business. So how do you keep up with what’s new in communication in an economic climate that doesn’t allow for 5-day conferences in rural Ireland? (I’m dreaming of green fields..) You curl up with a good book and pick up a few tips on along the way.
I came across Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath when I attended a Speakers training course by Tearfund, when I volunteered to speak for them. I must admit to having attended the training with a modicum of smugness. As I have legal training, as a barrister, I did not really think much could be added to my knowledge and not inconsiderable experience in public speaking. Needless to say the training was excellent, but what really floated my boat was the book which was a gift from Tearfund.
By the time I finished reading it I had discovered a whole new dimension to communication: the concept of making an idea or a message stick. It’s one thing to have eloquent, persuasive, intelligent speaking ability, but are the audience persuaded and do they take action afterwards? That’s much harder to achieve.
Business people communicate all the time, with their customers, the general public, their employees and investors. The communication, thus takes many forms, from full-blown formal presentations to an audience, to a one to one with a customer or employee. In Made to Stick, the authors, who are psychologists, share scientifically proven tips, to help speakers, teachers, writers and business people share their ideas and successfully persuade their audience to take action. This book is a must read for anyone who has great ideas that they want to share and make stick!