Communications on the Global Stage, Presentation at Stanford
Clear & Concise Writing in BusinessA Perspective from the Global Stage IdaRose Sylvester Managing Director, Silicon Valley Link 25 April 2011 BUS 215 Stanford University Ps, Go Bears
100,000 Years of Human Language ?And We Still Have No Idea What We’re Doing
Agenda• Why I care about communication• Why communication fails• How Americans communicate• High level pointers for improving any business communication• Case studies of real world bad (and good!) communications
Why I Care about Business Communication• My business is based upon communication• Much of my communication, due to distance, time zones, and “modern life” is done in writing• Most of my first impressions are made in writing• Most of my relationships are built over time through writing• Much of my work is cross cultural, and also cross gender, cross age, cross function
We Hear People through a Lens• We hear based on our own demographic biases, education and belief systems• We hear based on our biases about people, at a cultural and individual level• We hear what we want to hear• (We also often don’t know what we are trying to say, a whole different issue)
The Distortion that is Cross Cultural CommunicationsImagined• We assume issues when they don’t exist• We subconsciously overcompensateReal• We may miss the meaning of words, or words have a whole different meaning• We miss cultural context, especially around negative messaging, hierarchical response
How Americans Communicate• Function of our education system – Biased towards structure and sophistication of words, but not towards connecting with and understanding people – Linguistic gymnastics: Valor is to cowardice as courageous is to pusillanimous
How Americans Communicate• We use far more words than necessary• Americans, especially Californians, are adverse to giving negative messages, so we avoid or pad• Overly eager to communicate in writing when face to face would be better
To Ponder• It is easy to forget that communicating is not just sending, it is receiving• If you become a better listener, you will become a better communicator• If you assume the best about people when they are communicating, you’re far more likely to have a better outcome
General Tips to Improve ANY Written Communication• Eschew obfuscation• Know what you want to achieve with the other person, and check the communication against that objective• Think about your filters, and those of your recipient• Remember, you are always talking to another person• Prove your intelligence through your clear, sincere thoughts, not the length of your correspondence
Structural Tips for All Written Communication• Don’t over communicate• Establish real rapport, build a relationship• Make your objectives clear• Provide next steps Concise, Clear, Persuasive, Actionable
Making AmendsHi Everyone,I spoke with the manager, Edward, of the Palace Hotel, and sadly, they DID NOT cancel our hotel reservations. He very clearly stated thatSerena had come to him, and told him to cancel all the rooms they had held for us for quite some time. As most of you know, I had askedmost of you to help with covering your hotel rooms and food. Only Paul replied that he was not sure if he would be able to do that, which istotally understandable. With that support, the conference was in enough financial shape, to continue on. Hard to imagine, at that point, wewere only a couple of thousand dollars from covering our expenses for the conference. Rather than ask some of the speakers who I hadagreed to cover/reimburse their aifare for, when the conference first began, to step aside, I made the decision to step aside. I tried to contactIdaRose via one of her two europhones, to ask her to co-chair the conference, as I know she is very astute and an excellent speaker, plus shehas a deep appreciation for US - Europe relations. I had thought it would be quicker to reach her by europhone than email since she was intransit. As it turns out, the europhone acts like it is taking a message, but really it is not. The Palace hotel said that they would have workedwith us, and accepted a money wire or credit cards from the guests who had agreed to cover their hotel cost. They were very open to workwith us. I had already wired money the day before, to Paolo, which they never received, and has one more money wire to send them, tocover most of the reast of the speakers, minus the close to 2000.00 that we were short. A friend had offered to assist with that amount, so wewere all set. Then, all hell broke loose yesterday morning, and we are all still trying to sort through this complex matter.Yesterday I spoke with Tom in Umbria, and through Tom we met the managers of the venue there, who as it turns out, are from SanFrancisco. They agreed to allow us to use their space for free.Perhaps this is the place where I will hold any future events, as they are very reasonably priced, and very kind. Tom and Lisa and I had alengthy conversation, and they said that they love to have people come to visit their area, and that they would be williing to meetup withpeople at the new venue for an unconference informal style gathering, as the main point was to meet, and that this was a loss for everyone inthat regard, too. Lisa mentioned about the beautiful nature spots there, they would try to show people.Contrary to the untrue and malicious statement made by Stefano, we are not trying to hide anything from Eventbrite, or anyone, thereby Idisabled all the ticket sales immediately yesterday. We also did not post a new venue, as did not want people showing up, until we knowexactly what we are doing. That is why I posted the email address, and asked people interested, to call me. Im surprized that one or twoticket holders in Italy, that Stefano knows, would already be talking about legal action, when no one has been told that they wont bereceiving a refund. I hope Italy is not becoming like the US in that regard. That would be sad.
Making AmendsFrom having our conversation with Tom, we have been trying to organize a smaller gathering, and I have contacted all theattendees who bought tickets, by email, and some by phone. Each person I have interacted with so far, has been very cordial andunderstanding, and I have agreed to work with them on reimbursements over the next 30 days.They thanked me, and agreed to it, some even going so far to say that they had been dreaming about attending this conferenceevery night for the past week, and are very sad that it is further away now, but that next year they would like to join in.Paolo, I have not heard a word from you about the $1400.00 I wired to you for the Palace Hotel and your 3 nights of hotel room. Irealize that you stayed in Viareggio for two nights. The rest of that money belongs to the ticket holders, and it needs to bereturned to me, via PayPal, so that they can start to be reimbursed. Its the right thing to do, and it should be done as soon as ispossible.Paul, Catherine and I work with our web dev as a team, and we have instructed him to remove both your post, and all other datarelated to you. As for the blog post that went up on 26th, he posted that before knowing about this situation we are all facing.My son is asking me to take him to the skate park, so I will continue when returning home.Wishing you all well,Best,XXXps, Quality and clear communication is key, and that is what we are all striving for, and thankyou all, for that. It shows character when people take the time to communicate with eachother, instead of trying to slander, demean, and undermine one another. It takes a globalvillage, and groups like this can do a lot to improve the world.
Delivering Bad NewsFrom: TomTo: IdaRose SylvesterSubject: RegretsHi IdaRose,I just walked in and saw that you called. I dont have good news for you as we aregoing to go in a different direction for bizdev. This has not been an easy decision and Iam sorry to make this call, as its not my favorite thing to do. Know that we discussedthis to a great extent internally and while our personal feelings for you remain high,we have decided to take a another approach. Perhaps a future business opportunitywill bring us back together down the road.Thanks for your understanding,Tom
Asking for FeedbackTo: Armando, IdaRose Cc: Paolo, LorenzoSubject: Re: meglio chiamarlo coupon o deal?meglio chiamarlo coupon o deal?Nunzio
Communicating in Powerpoint• Powerpoint has become the number one business communications tool. People use Powerpoint in all aspects of business, from sharing a simple sales pitch to communicating complex data sets to suggesting corporate turnaround strategies. In fact, some people are using Powerpoint to replace Word documents, imagining the pithy format will make communication, and formatting of said communication, easier, when in reality, Powerpoint is a very poor tool for conveying complex information. The best slides are not your speaker notes nor your speech put into a template, but rather the highest level prompts and simple graphs that illustrate your points, that add, not repeat what you have to say, and certainly should never distract your audience from what you are saying. It is my personal belief that Powerpoint should be banned, but nobody cares what I have to say because you are too busy trying to read this ridiculous slide. Hope the guy in the back isn’t getting a migraine, sorry!
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Exercise• In the next few minutes, write a short new message, fixing – A. the proposal rejection or – B. follow up to meeting a potential customer at a tradeshow