In our global industry, it is not only important to know what to say, but how to say it. The event business is an emotional one and the ability to communicate effectively with a wide demographic is a key component in making and sustaining connections. This means that not knowing how to present yourself and address tricky topics tactfully can have a significant impact on your business, your brand reputation, and your bottom line. Today, I am sharing five things to consider when communicating with colleagues and clients.
If you want to know how a client really feels about your suggestion or what a team member thinks of their role, pay attention to the dozens of non-verbal cues they send your way. How do you introduce yourself and acknowledge the person you have meet; do you shake hands and actually repeat their name back. Are their arms folded across their chests? Are their palms up or down? Understanding what different gestures mean can be your secret weapon. Additionally, take a good look at how you come across to those around you. Are you looking down at the ground when telling a client what you expect? Have you researched what different gestures mean in different cultures? Do you slouch or present yourself in a way that is inappropriate for the culture? Working with different cultures all over the world has allowed me to experience first-hand how to approach clients differently and appropriately (and where boundaries or a too familiar approach should or should not be considered). The importance of giving your full attention and good eye-contact cannot be stressed enough. It makes you appear:
- More warm and personable
- More attractive and likable
- More qualified, skilled, competent, and valuable
- More trustworthy, honest, and sincere
- More confident and emotionally stable
Here are other things to consider:
Use your words
The words we use can make or break our business, especially in an industry that involves so many languages and cultures. From the simple “Mr.” or “Miss” or “Mrs.” or different title as in “His Highness”, or “Mr. President” always refer to their last name unless receiving different instructions from the person directly. Relay their name back is considered polite and personable. Before sitting down with a new client or working in a different country, take some time to familiarize yourself with local verbiage and practice your delivery. A bunch of “um’s” and other filler words will erode your credibility.
Be mindful of your Tone
When it comes to making a good first impression, your tone makes the second biggest impact (the first is appearance). Practice will help you to speak with authority and confidence and inspire respect. In order to get your point across clearly, it’s imperative that you understand your audience and control your delivery. Get feedback from your team or a trusted colleague. Do you unintentionally sound aggressive? Are you coming off unsure? Also remember that there is a time to speak and a time to listen. More often than not, a person’s body language will indicate when they are ready to receive and when they ready to give. Never raise your voice.
We work in an emotional business and there is no denying that things can get hectic and heated. The decision to maintain a positive and productive attitude (and not allowing momentary stress or setbacks to blur your big picture vision) can be your key to success. Ask open-ended questions to gain an understanding of how others might be feeling and to get a real understanding of what is behind their behavior. When you put kindness and professionalism first, especially when dealing with someone who isn’t, you step into a leadership role. Never forget that there is power in grace and kindness.
Give people the benefit-of-the-doubt
Whether it’s a new vendor, team member or a client who keeps changing their minds, the best thing that you can do for others is giving them the benefit of the doubt when you are in an uncomfortable situation. Taking some time to wait until you have all the pieces of the puzzle together before providing the feedback will usually offer more answers (and cause fewer misunderstandings) than jumping in and going on the offensive. We have a tendency to overestimate internal vs. external factors when observing other people’s actions. Practicing an empathic approach can improve your ability to understand why people act the way they do and also help you better your working relationships.
Remember that is never personal.
As planners, designers and artists, we place a lot of ourselves into our work which is beautiful, but it can also make things a bit tricky when someone is not as happy as we had hoped to make them. It’s important to remember that it’s not about you and that much of what people are unhappy about is more about their specific vision and expectations than something you did “wrong”. This is why open and transparent discussions are imperative.
This one is essential. Own your space and don’t be afraid to admit when you have made a mistake or need to reassess something. Reasonable people understand that we are all human and most people respect when others take responsibility for something they have done or confess what they don’t know. Most problems arise when we avoid acknowledging something that everyone is seeing and not addressing. Be accountable to yourself, accept mistakes and move forward.