We spent some time learning from Jon Gundlach yesterday, who works for an advertising and political consulting firm. Jon’s key piece about communication is it all rests on the story, and you can’t tell a good story if you haven’t put together an intelligible storyline.
During Jon’s time with us, which I found to be incredibly enlightening, we gained insight on the impact of storyboarding any pitch, presentation, or conversation starter we might be working on. While Jon’s time with us didn’t allow for him to explore some of the nuances that separate a presentation from a conversation, for instance, I found his focus on making a presentation about both the audience and yourself, really important to keep in mind.
Too often, and I’m just as guilty about this as everyone else, I begin a conversation or presentation thinking about what I need to say and why, and not as focused as I should be on what my content and my style might be interpreted as by my audience.
As Jon shared, presentations are regularly more about the visual style and look of the presentation and the presenter, and we bring people on board, or push them away, often within the first few minutes. So, it pays to be professional, welcoming, inquisitive about those in our audience, and really engaged in listening to others.
An area in which I’ve grown, and one where I still need to keep building my skills, is on making sure that people always hold my full attention. Sometimes I tend to be scattered, and rather than keeping eye contact, I might look away, or if I hear a noise as I’m chatting, I might turn to look towards it. Other times, even though it looks like I’m focused on someone, my mind is moving a mile a minute, either thinking about how I am going to respond next, or about an entirely different idea.
Jon’s mention that the presenter and his/her actions are often much more important than the presentation itself, helped solidify for me that I need to keep growing in this area. Certainly, information sharing is important, but our ability to draw people in with a story, and our own “being,” is something that we can never lose sight of.