Communication is an art form. Those who have ever listened to or been in the presence of a great speaker know exactly what I mean. A gifted orator can captivate and inspire an audience.
Communication comprises more than mere words. The ability to effectively articulate your message, whether written or verbal, gives impact. The added benefit of personal face-to-face, eye-to-eye exchanges allow for shared energy and raw expression.
As people rely more heavily on eMail, Facebook, Twitter and text messaging, they tend to sacrifice the art of communication in favor of merely “connecting.” Complete sentences, grammar, and even spelling are cast aside for the sake of brevity. Thoughts and ideas become a series of snippets, abbreviations, and acronyms. Sound bites at best, subject to misinterpretation and imperfection. True expression becomes lost.
Case in point, I recently visited with the CEO/Founder of an early seed-stage startup company. We initially connected via eMail and arranged a time to talk by phone. In doing my due diligence prior to our conversation, I learned that this CEO/Founder had been in the technology industry for over a decade and had climbed various corporate ladders from sales to a V.P. role, including positions with a few recognized internet companies. Considering his background, I was anxious to learn more about his idea for the next great internet opportunity.
During our phone conversation, he alluded to his concept and the prospects of my involvement, either on the technology side or as an investor. Surprisingly, his comments did not generate the energy or inspiration I anticipated from someone trying to sell me on his dream. However, I attributed that lack to his poor cell phone reception resulting in broken conversation and the overlapping of each other’s sentences at times. Because the target market had a specific attraction and the potential sounded lucrative, I agreed to meet in person.
We chatted about his business model, his search for a V.P. of Sales and a V.P. of Technology, and then he gave his investor presentation. The company he envisions requires a foundation built upon three key elements: Leadership, Sales, and Technology. Neither the sales nor technology positions have been filled and after speaking personally with him, I lacked confidence in his effectiveness in a leadership role.
His presentation did not inspire me. I felt like he just Tweeted me. Quick slides with simple facts. No real insight into the market or the company he wants to build. While he demonstrated a modicum of passion for the market his concept would serve, it didn’t carry over into the company he wanted to build. Basically, he was a poor communicator and as such, I suspect a poor leader.
For that reason, I decided to express doubts about my fitting into the corporate structure despite my genuine attraction to his idea. I did leave open the possibility of a seed stage investment. In that regard, I requested some additional information referenced during his presentation, which he promised to send by eMail. His response left much to be desired. It merely listed three links to public articles about the target market, relayed in a four sentence eMail, of which one was two improperly connected sentences, another lacked a preposition and his closing had a missing adjective leaving the meaning ambiguous. Making it even more impersonal, the eMail ended with a standard signature line.
Needless to say, I have decided not to invest.
Steve Jobs knew the importance of communication. Number Six on his Seven Rules of Success was “Master the Message.” Equally important was Number Seven “Sell Dreams, Not Products.” Although Steve was well connected, he never lost the art of communication. How can you sell a dream without being able to relay a message that accurately describes it? How can you inspire anyone without their seeing the sparkle in your eye, hearing the emotion in your voice, and noticing the enthusiasm in your body language? While great writers can come close, do you really believe someone can truly express themselves in blurbs of 140 characters or less?
In this age of connectivity, be careful not to limit your message to a short string of words or acronyms. While text messaging, Tweets and such are handy, don’t become so addicted to “connecting” that you lose the ability to communicate.
The great communicator and story-teller Will Rogers once said, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
Master the Message!