I don’t know much about Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York.
I left the state 40 years ago when I graduated from high school, and other than occasional visits to see my mom and big brother Al (there’s your shout out, now stop whining), New York isn’t really on my radar.
That all changed a couple of weeks ago, when I stumbled upon one of Governor Cuomo’s daily COVID-19 press conferences.
Once each day, late morning, he appears before the cameras and a small, appropriately-distanced group of reporters, to share the latest updates.
Here’s what struck me almost immediately: the briefings are a perfect example of effective “professional services communication.”
Whether you are giving a group talk, being interviewed on a podcast, publishing a newsletter (recommended), or anything else that involves sharing knowledge with a group, the man is a living, breathing, New York-accented text book on how to do it well.
That’s because the information he provides in these briefings is…
- Simple. There are no complicated words, jargon or concepts. You don’t need to know a single thing about government or health care to easily understand what he’s talking about.
If your words are easy to get through, people will listen.
- Educational. The briefings are filled with statistics and data. But I can Google those; if that’s all he shared each day, I wouldn’t bother watching. He does much more than that – he teaches along the way.
On Monday, for example, he grabbed a handheld thingy, demonstrated how it worked, and explained that if there were not enough ventilators, these unwieldy items were the only back-up option.
If your words offer insight, not just facts, people will seek them out.
- Predictable. He says hello, he introduces the experts sitting with him, he talks for a while, and then he takes reporter questions. After a couple of days, even his PowerPoint slides feel familiar.
If your words are consistent, people will feel comfortable and keep coming back.
- Conversational. Cuomo speaks in a striking, “man on the street” way. Even when addressing a huge TV audience on a life and death topic, he sounds like a vice principal who just caught you running in the hallway.
Sometimes, he even acts out mini-conversations, the way you might in a one-on-one interaction: “You think you’re too young and strong to be infected? Oh really?!”
If your words are conversational, people will feel like they know you.
- Personal. This is my favorite part of all. He makes fun of his brother, he mentions his daughter, he named a set of rules intended to protect vulnerable populations after his mother, Matilda.
At one level you might say, “Who cares? Let’s just stick to the serious business at hand.”
But, the personal tidbits are what make these briefings authentic, and believable, and different, and interesting. A fact-filled teleprompter, no matter how well it’s read, can’t do any of that.
Here’s the bottom line.
You might love Cuomo, you might hate Cuomo. I don’t really care.
But don’t miss the genius of what he’s doing every day in breaking through the noise and getting his message across – and the chance to learn from it.
Because while it may be true that your work as a professional has little to do with how well you communicate, the reason I’m going to hire you, instead of your competition, is about very little else.