Interview with Dan by Brad Collins, Brand Strategist from Group C Inc. in New Haven, CT
Brad: Let’s re-visit a discussion we had about changing the nomenclature of business communication, thinking about what that nomenclature will become. Actually, the word you used was “re-create,” which is a stronger word.
Dan: What I’m trying in my business is to recreate a “paradigm,” to use a horribly overused word; to recreate the nomenclature would kind of follow that. The industry standard has gotten so distanced from any real purpose or ability to predictably create value that it’s ridiculous. It’s become absurd. We’ve completely lost touch with what we are trying to do when we communicate. So, when I talk about “recreating the nomenclature,” it really has to do with getting back to “why are we doing this?” Why do we reach out to people? Why do we exchange ideas, especially in business? It’s not just to hear ourselves talk, and clearly it’s not just to exchange of information. We have Excel spreadsheets and e-mail for that. Without getting too fanciful about it, one of the things we need to do is change how we talk about talking in business, because business language is so laden with current meaning and ritual that it has become valueless. The current understanding of a “presentation” suggests that someone with a projector and some type of software program is projecting a combination of graphics and text onto a screen and narrating what’s on those projections. It’s not uncommon at all for a new client to say to me, “I’m going to send you my presentation.” But, I don’t get a Word document with an outline. I get a PowerPoint file. And, it just doesn’t work. It doesn’t work in terms of accomplishing an objective. Ironically, I think it is often the unstated rather than the stated objective of these communications to get something to happen that matters. To develop a relationship, to move something forward in the organization, to change someone’s behavior or beliefs, or whatever it might be—this is why we talk to each other in business to begin with. Also, re: the word “presentation”—let’s get rid of it. And “speech” is pretty much the same thing. I mean, you go to hear somebody “speak,” but they don’t really talk to you. They give a speech. You see it in politics and you see it in business all the time. People stand up and deliver an assiduously worded set of prepared remarks that, in the end, except in very rare circumstances, feels like, “OK, we got through that, but what was the point?” I’m trying to get folks to think about why we are communicating before we think about what we are communicating. If you start there, if you really ask yourself the question why first, then everything about the experience you create as a business communicator is going to be different: more connected, more valuable, and much better received.