On Sept. 2, 2009, in the Centresource company meeting, our CEO had the staff break …
There. I admitted it.
Not cool, but it’s true. In this sound byte world, I find something refreshing about listening to a representative on the floor of the House going on and on about Bill No. 2221. While for most this would be something mandated in purgatory, for me it’s a not-so-guilty pleasure.
On occasion, C-Span will air footage from the United Nations. 99% of the time the delegates are speaking a language I don’t understand, but I still get a kick out of their posturing, mannerisms and delivery. They are professional communicators and their careers have been defined by their ability to sway an audience.
That being said, no matter how great of an orator the leader of Zamunda might be, he has no real power to persuade me. I don’t understand a word he’s saying after all. I’m immune to his influence. I would make more of a connection with him if he were to read the New York City phone book.
Thinking that through I realized something important: Only 50% of communication is what and how you are saying something. The other 50% is what people hear. You can have the most creative interactive and marketing campaigns of all time, but if you aren’t speaking in a way that your customers can understand, they are lost.
This is why it is key to understand your target demographic intimately (or, as we call them at Centresource, your Stakeholders). Are they men, women, old, young, rich, poor? Do they make their decisions online or through direct mail? All of this will shape the tone of your conversation. It will teach you the right dialect. It will tell you the questions to ask and how to engage people where they live. Taking the time to understand the lives of your Stakeholders frees you to speak their language. Sure, it’s great to have a polished presentation, but if you don’t know who you are talking to…you might as well be speaking Zamundan.