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MIE columnist Jurriaen Sleijster: Stand up and speak!

"Communication skills are essential in today’s business world. No matter what your area of expertise is: finance, IT, engineering, medicine: operating successfully in a community requires that your communication skills are top notch.

“Good communication skills outrank other core business competencies as the number one skill for corporate recruiters looking to hire MBA graduates” according to The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), which runs GMAT testing for MBA applicants. They also report that this requirement has been ranking in the top three for the last few years: it’s not a fad. It shows how important this is; MBA’s are hired for their business education and whatever discipline they specialised in, yet the number one requirement is that they can stand up in front of a crowd and communicate. Because although communication knows many different aspects – ranging from the written word to video messages etc. all the way to oral presentations – but nothing is as powerful and has such an immediate impact as someone standing up in front of people to share their views with the audience, and to enter into a dialogue. People base much of their opinion on the person, and yes, on the whole organisation he/she represents, depending on how well they communicate.

Communication knows both form and substance. The best communicators master both. Sure, for a lecture one can prepare contents in advance but if you have to answer questions or defend a position in a debate you need to master your subject well enough to go beyond prepared statements. You have to address the audience, read the mood, pick up on issues that need further clarification, and rephrase and reformulate until you get the message across, and be credible and convincing. As to the form: in his book “Body Language: 7 Easy Lessons to Master the Silent Language” (Prentice Hall life, 2008) author John Borg argues that human communication consists of 93% body language and paralinguistic cues, while only 7% of communication consists of words themselves. Mastering “form” is therefore an essential part of successful communication.

Associations and non-profit organisations thrive on communication: it helps them to build their communities, to engage their members and to inspire people into action. Many of these organisations hold periodical meetings and congresses, where the activities of the organisation come to life and where the key people of the association interact, network… and communicate. Train your leadership in this essential skill. Look for staff that have this talent and assess communication capabilities during the recruitment process. The future success of your association depends on it. That speaks for itself…

Jurriaen Sleijster

Executive Vice President

MCI Group

Photographer: Sara Appelgren