Hello everybody. I’m Victoria Rennoldson, Communication and Culture Coach, and welcome to Wednesday Words with me. You can choose to watch this by clicking ‘play’ on the video above, which also has subtitles.
Or, because I know that many of you, just like me, like to listen to podcasts when you’re out and about, you can listen to the audio only version, by clicking below:
Finally, you can also read the blog as well, right here below.
In today’s Wednesday Words we’re talking about communication agility. Do you remember those paint by number kits, when you were a child, where you had to paint the colour according to the number, and little by little the picture built up? Well, it is one way to paint, but it isn’t necessarily going to make you a great artist, as it isn’t the most creative way to paint.
It’s the same with communication agility. You can of course learn to communicate by doing steps and you can prepare yourself for certain situations like presentations and meetings, but I’m a great believer in communication agility.
What do I mean by this?
Communication agility is having that flexibility to interact with others, no matter what comes up. To be able to respond in the moment and go with the flow of the conversation, and also, if communication challenges come up, to know how to adjust what you’re doing, what you’re saying, and how you’re saying it, to be more effective. In fact, it is about being not too fixated on ‘perfect’ and over prepared for any type of communication, whether it’s a meeting, event or presentation.
So that’s what communication agility means to me, and I think it helps my clients think about their communication confidence journey, because it helps them realise that there is lots we can do in the moment to interact.
But how do we do it? Well, I wanted to share today some of my core concepts that support this idea of communication agility.
- So to start with, I believe it’s about the audience, whether it’s actually an audience for a presentation or the people just listening to you in a meeting. Think about: what are their needs? What’s your relationship like? Have you met this person or people before? Do you work with them regularly and know what they think about the topic? And also think about what kinds of questions might come up, because that helps us get out of our heads and our worries about the communication and really focuses instead on what’s important: the other people.
- The next idea and concept, is that we start with thinking about ‘What’s the One thing?’ Now what I’m talking about here is messaging – what is the one thing that you want them to take away to remember from the conversation? It could be up to a maximum of three things, I am flexible on this point, but there is a lot of research that says if you get focused on what are the 1, 2, or 3 messages maximum, that you want people to take away, then that can help them, because we don’t have a lot of capacity in our brains to remember lots of information, so just keep it simple.
- Then if there’s an action, it’s important that you’re clear on what you want the other person or people to do, as a result of your communication. If they need to respond, make that clear. If they need to do it by a certain deadline, again, make sure they understand that, and that is flagged at the end of your communication.
- From the planning points, let’s now think about what happens within the conversation itself. So, it is time to speak up, which means that sometimes when we’re feeling not that confident, whether it’s about the situation, the group of people, or just that day we’ve woken up and we’re not feeling that communication confident, we realise that we still need to do it, we still need to open our mouths, express our views, and have the flexibility to share our opinions. Even if we don’t feel like it, we need to have a go, and of course if you’re somebody who is on that communication confidence journey, then the more we do it, the easier it becomes. We build up that muscle that helps us to be more communication agile.
- Building on that, we need to keep going, so if you get stuck, and you can’t think of how to express yourself, or you lose your words, the main thing is to stop, pause, take a breath… and then find a simpler way to say it. There’s always a way around, even if it’s just using a very simple phrase, or try to re-express it in other words. It’s critical that you try, rather than getting stuck and getting worried or flustered. The idea is to keep going and make sure that you continue your thought, and this will help you realise you have that communication agility.
- Plan for feedback: this is a key point. I’m sure that if you’re working in an organisation, you quite regularly receive feedback, both informally and formally, for example, in the performance review. However, it’s something that people rarely think about doing for their communication. So, if communication is something that you’re working on, it’s part of your goals, and you realise the power of communication to help you realise your performance and career aspirations, then I highly recommend that you regularly get feedback about your communication approach. I would identify a colleague, or somebody that you know, who’s also attending the meeting or watching the presentation that you’re doing, and ask them for feedback about some very specific points of your communication. Ask them not only for nice, positive feedback, because sometimes people like to do this, but also ask them about what you could improve on, how you could do it differently next time, to have a greater impact and influence others. I think that’s crucial because we can get then a better view of how we’re doing. It’s hard for us to judge our own communication approach.
- Then finally, smile and eyes. I think this is valuable, because this is where the human connection comes in, this is how people feel like we’re talking to them. The power of smiling is well known, and even if we’re feeling worried about this meeting, event or presentation, just the act of smiling helps us feel more positive, more relaxed, and it also sends positive messages to the people who are watching and listening to us. Eyes are significant, and that’s an easy thing to remember when we’re in person because we look around the room to make eye contact with people on a regular basis. However, when you’re online, remember to speak to the camera, this is something that sometimes people forget, as this is how we make eye contact virtually, and build the relationship and connection with the people who are listening or watching you.