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Are Communication Skills At An All Time Low?

Author : Vincent Stevenson

Submitted : 2007-06-17 00:00:00    Word Count : 691    Popularity:   131

Tags:   College of Public Speaking, Presentation & Communication Skills Training Courses, Vince Stevenson, Public Speaking, Body Language Awareness

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The business world is finally waking up to the fact that communication skills are at an all time low.

To be honest, in my thirty years in industry they have always been a cause of concern.

Last week's edition of BBC's The Apprentice was all the evidence we needed to accept that enough is enough and something must be done - but what?

A few years ago I was working on an IT project with some young guns in London. A departmental meeting was called and the head honcho announced that he planned an internal seminar where each and every team leader would stand up and justify their team's existence.

After the spluttering and choking, I had never seen a room empty so quickly.

Most of these guys had worked for the company for some time, experienced professionals, and they should all have had the skills to comfortably overcome this hurdle.

But nobody wanted to present their case. Nobody wanted to stand up in front of their peers and sell themselves and their teams.

I had never heard so many excuses. Some were already saying that they wouldn't be available, even though a date hadn't been set. Some had decided to delegate to a subordinate and another spin on that was to pass the poisoned chalice to a contractor – he could always be fired easily and everybody understands the concept of the sacrificial lamb.

There really is a serious problem in our educational development when experienced executives are unable to express themselves in public with confidence, coherence and clarity.

When the day of the seminar arrived, a number of team leaders were either ill, absent without leave or mysteriously whisked off to New York or Paris diligently pursuing their team's A-rated goals. No time for seminars.

The event was cancelled by the departmental head at great expense and even greater embarrassment and he resigned a month or so later.

Last week's edition of The Apprentice demonstrated and encapsulated the problem. Simon Ambrose, an MA from Cambridge University was given the challenge of presenting saleable products on a daytime TV channel. The results cost the channel thousands of pounds in losses.

His presentation of quite basic products resulted in an endless flurry of OK, OK, OK,OK – right, yes, now, alright, so, and…. And so it went on.

Even Sir Alan Sugar in a moment of irony questioned… ‘How many times is his going to say OK? He's dying. Get him off!'

The real problem is that we often mistake academic achievement for intelligence, we often mistake intelligence for charisma, and we often expect the intelligent and charismatic to be excellent communicators.

To be fair, Simon was awful, but no more so than the average manager, and it's unfair to single him out. It's highly possible that his role models were poor communicators and he was merely doing best. However, I was concerned that his colleague Naomi, suggested that he had taken lessons in public speaking.

There is a problem – and in the business community, we must face up to it.

Poor communication costs the economy billions of pounds every year in terms of wasted time in meetings, briefings and more formal dissemination of verbal information. And yet we still expect our managers to be excellent communicators without any formal training.

Speaking is a skill and like any other skill, it can easily be developed with professional assistance and supportive feedback.

At the next opportunity, please watch The Apprentice, The Dragons' Den or Channel 5's excellent ‘Selling Yourself'. How many of these people enhance their credibility in their presentations?

Do you have a Simon destroying your company's credibility?

Vince Stevenson is one of England's greatest speaking enthusiasts, having competed for and won many prestigious competitions. Vince is involved with speaking at many levels and has just finished his year as District President of the South-Eastern District of the Association of Speakers Clubs having been involved in its educational development for many years. Vince is a founder and lead trainer at the College of Public Speaking, a business dedicated to improving effective communication skills in industry. He is also an in demand after-dinner speaker.

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The College of Public Speaking assists the Corporate Sector improve its communication skills. Utilising the tried and trusted research of Albert Mehrebian, we use cutting edge business scenarios to develop speakers capable of performing on the international stage.
http://www.collegeofpublicspeaking.co.uk



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