Two weeks ago the UpSkill Community hosted a Fireside Chat with Colleen Stewart concerning storytelling and its relationship to branding.
When we try to sell a product or an idea to anyone, we use storytelling as one of the tools. Maybe you can recall hearing a marketer of some sort use a story from his own life, showing how his values or background inspired the creation. Maybe the brand has a unique story that resonates with you.
Storytelling is branding.
What we want to focus on in this blog is the importance of understanding non-verbal communication in order to assess the effectiveness of our stories.
Colleen Stewart is the founder of Perfect Pitch, a consulting agency. After she graduated from college with a journalism degree she spent time travelling around the world. She eventually got a job as a sales representative with a publishing company.
During her time with that publishing company, she was selected to do a presentation for 10-15 prospective customers in Calgary. The presentation was a big deal so a manager flew out from Toronto to help her prepare.
Fifteen minutes into the presentation, she realized someone in the audience was snoring. Someone at the back had their head hanging back, with their mouth open.
Stewart failed to get the deal. After that experience, Stewart vowed to crack the code of successful communication.
As George Bernard Shaw said “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
We can sometimes assume that the delivery of information — simply telling someone or sending an email — is all we need for communication.
We view our responsibilities as ending there, but communication is not a one-way street. Communication is a process, not a product.
Communication has always been complex, and is becoming more and more complex. It requires ongoing engagement and attentiveness.
If you are a delivery company, your job is not done when you send something out. You need to verify that the buyer has received the package.
Feedback is part of the communication cycle. In fact, it is usually the final step.
If our communication was not received, we must modify or update.
Some of the feedback we get will be verbal, but some will be non-verbal. Non-verbal communication can give us helpful clues about how our message is being received, whether it’s in business or in other areas of our life.
When you are talking to someone are they looking away? Yawning? That is non-verbal feedback.
Colleen’s experience demonstrates that we need to be mindful of our audience and the non-verbal feedback. We need to examine how our message is being received.
In Colleen’s case, the non-verbal feedback (snoring) could be supplemented with one-on-one discussions or surveys.
Then again, people may not always be comfortable giving negative feedback (even if it’s constructive). We touched on this hesitancy in our last blog post.
Non-verbal feedback offers a form of feedback that is harder to hide or lie about, but we need to be on the lookout for it. We also need to be aware that non-verbal communication can change depending on cultural differences.
Many years ago I did a sales presentation. Like Colleen’s story, this was a high-stakes presentation. They sent me because I had a reputation for closing these deals. My audience was composed of the two top executives of an organization.
Throughout the presentation, one of the execs was nodding his head in a way that I interpreted as engagement, agreement or approval.
The other executive was shaking their head from side to side, which I interpreted as disapproval or disengagement.
I tried to modify the presentation to change the second executive’s response to approval, and nothing seemed to work.
I had to stop focusing on that executive, and focused on the one who was nodding.
When I asked for the close, the second exec was the one who wanted to give me the yes. He was on board with my presentation, but the fact that I ignored him for most of it made him feel disrespected.
The exec I thought was on my side was actually in disagreement. His nodding meant the opposite of what I thought.
What I learned from that was that we can’t assume that we’re communicating with the system in a diverse world.
We must always clarify that what we receive as feedback is what was intended. Feedback is an ongoing dialogue.
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