I was sitting near the back of the main hall of the PMI Belgium event the other week when the presenter stepped down off the stage, just like a rock star, to get closer to his public. His message was relevant and strong and you could sense that the audience were eating up everything he shared with them. It was then I noticed it, the phasing problem. As he walked closer to me I began to hear his voice from two points, the loudspeakers on the stage and from him personally. For a few paces his voice became completely out of phase with itself, a most peculiar sound, reminiscent of the effect added to a number of pop records from the mid 60’s.  And although I am very familiar with the issues of phasing from recording music, I have never witnessed it in such a powerful way in real life.

This got me thinking about how communications can go wrong in business. The further away the message maker gets from his or her local audience, be it the boardroom, physical location (or even their local clients) the more difficult it is for them to be fully understood. Their words might be OK but the subtlety of meaning lost. The local audience’s ability to comprehend every deep and sublte nuance, gives way to a general understanding and (the further the message travels) even to eventual confusion and possible misunderstanding. This is probably why, more and more we find our leaders speaking in soundbites.

In my experience, important messages; such as on safety or company values are best given by local people in their local language. As long as the desired result is achieved, it really doesn’t matter even if the original words are changed or even manipulated for the best local effect. You can think of this as a kind of phasing issue. I also see a link as to why global politicians abroad always speak in their own language when addressing TV cameras in foreign countries.  Their public message is not primarily meant for their local audience, but for the one back home.

I wonder how far this blog will travel from the hotel room in which it was written in Budapest?

Have a good week,