You speak, but say nothing

This posting is typical of the short, sharp and useful advice I love from Seth Godin.

He blogs sometimes twice or more a day, which is a little too much for my tastes, but he regularly comes up with simple, meaningful gems like this one.

He says:

“this is the problem with just about every lame speech, every overlooked memo, every worthless bit of boilerplate foisted on the world: you write and write and talk and talk and bullet and bullet but no, you’re not really saying anything.

It took me two minutes to find a million examples. Here’s one, “The firm will remain competitive in the constantly changing market for defense legal services by creating and implementing innovative and effective methods of providing cost-effective, quality representation and services for our clients.”

Write nothing instead. It’s shorter.

Most people work hard to find artful ways to say very little. Instead of polishing that turd, why not work harder to think of something remarkable or important to say in the first place?”

This advice is very relevant for the world of sustainable business.

At Ethical Corporation we run a lot of conferences, a fair number of training workshops.

For enlightened speakers, we’ve largely banned PowerPoint, since it’s so dull, and moved to moderated debate with tough questioning from moderators. Much more fun.

But some speakers are nervous. Many still insist on the ‘right’ (?) to use PowerPoint.

Most of these insist on front loading their presentations with corporate info, and then ending when they run out of time, just when they have got to the interesting part about actual change or strategy re-evaluation, or what their results mean in context (OK most don’t do all that, but some do elements).

The corporate responsibility world has much to learn from the communications field.

Whilst you don’t want them taking complex messages and simplifying them overly for campaigns or responses to media, if you work in the CR field you can learn a lot from them about how to talk.

And your content, if communicated well, can sound really impressive, if it’s based on something solid. The trouble with communications folks is that so often they communicate fluffy crap in an engaging way. Imagine if you can communicate well with something substantive, nirvana!

I know some companies read this blog, out of the 600 or so of you that are signed up via email or RSS.

So here’s my message: Take Seth’s advice to heart. Say something interesting and say it fast, (we don’t care whether you have 65,000 or 72,000 employees) or refuse invitations to talk until you do.

Tell me I’m wrong, by all means.

But I think I speak for many of us when I say we’ve had enough corporate speak.

Let’s talk numbers, real methodologies, performance over policy, and new ideas for products and strategies that really help people.

If not now, then when?

1 Comment

  1. Glenn H

    A great sanity check for getting off our backsides and reminder to do things that really make a difference…

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