Experiencing a miscommunication? Remember to “keep it together!”

A few years ago, I was asked to present a  humorous speech about our digital communication challenges at a ProcureCon Indirect Conference.  I decided to use my home borough of Queens, New York as a visual prompt to make my coaching points. I knew that my visuals would play a key part in my ability to deliver comedic points. Given the fact that I would be presenting this monologue on a Big Stage in front of 500 attendees, I decided that this was not the time to initiate a DYI creative learning experience.

Instead. I reached out to a trained professional! I hired a  former colleague of mine who was a talented, seasoned  Art Director. I had seen his creative outputs and more importantly, I had witnessed his patient, consultative style during various situations. I thought “He is the right person to assist me with interpreting and executing my  quirky, comedic vision”.

We started to work together and worked through a number of slides and were making great progress. Then we arrived at a point in my speech where I needed a visual that would complement the phrase “Keep it authentic, but most of all keep it together“ as when I guided the audience to maintain a calm composure when experiencing a miscommunication.

A day or so  later, I received an email and eagerly opened the attachment. My eyes widened as I stared at a picture of a slice of New York -style pizza on a white paper plate on my computer screen. I thought “What does this have to do with anything I want to say?” and “He wants me to share the big stage with a giant slice of pizza?” To my credit, I didn’t fire off an email or place a call right away. I worked on something else for a while where I could do no harm.

A short while later, I went back and looked at the picture again and realized why my art director selected this photo. You see when us New Yorkers eat a slice of pizza, we don’t use a knife and fork. We fold the slice and lift it up to eat it making sure the cheese and the sauce doesn’t slide off. This way “We keep it together.”  This pizza photo was perfect and has become one of my favorite learning prompts. .  

What’s my “Learned It in Queens Communication” Lessons?

  1. First find a smart, creative  person who engages in deep listening  when you need to solve a problem
  2. Listen to their suggestions and give their ideas a chance to percolate. In other words, trust that they know what they are doing.
  3. Don’t pick up the phone or fire off an email saying “Whatareyakiddingme?” when you think you’ve been “misheard.”
  4. Instead, give yourself and your resource the gift of the pause.
  5. Chances are you have received some great advice, but your brain needs time to process the information.
  6. Then say the words that any creative consultant loves to hear “ Thank you” and “You were right and so on point.”

Remember, keep it authentic. but more importantly, keep it together.

Final Note – I did share the big stage with a huge slice of pizza.

Julienne Ryan is the author of The Learned It In Queens Communications Playbook – Winning Against Digital Distraction.