Forget the technology, remember Frank Carson – “It’s the way you tell ‘em.” By Steve Ireland

Let me admit at the outset that I am NOT a ‘techie.’ When I started life as a journalist, even my retractable ball-point could pose problems for me.

But as someone who has spent a life in the communications industry – newspapers, radio, the BBC and international TV – I say a massive ‘thank-you’ to the scientists who have given us so many tools with which we can communicate with each other on a global scale.

I also love great stories, especially those which show the foolishness of making big predictions.

It’s a popular myth that in the 1940s, the president of IBM, Thomas J Watson, forecast there would be a world market for about five computers. Can you imagine just five computers in the world? I certainly can’t.

We can now forgive Watson and set the record straight. The remark was traced back to one of the professors who helped create the world’s first computer – Baby’ – at Manchester University in 1948.

Yes, the original computers were massive – about the size of a room – and a far cry from the ones we now carry in our brief cases and bags. Even so, it was a legendary misjudgement.

However, some leading computer scientists believe that this seemingly ridiculous forecast may yet prove correct.

Author and journalist, Nick Carr, noted in The Guardian  that Greg Papadopoulos, the chief technology officer at Sun Microsystems, declared on his blog: “The world needs only five computers”.

He was supported by Yahoo’s head researcher, Prabhakar Raghavan, who in an interview in Business Week, said: “In a sense, there are only five computers on Earth.”

Some IBM researchers believed that five computers may be four too many.

“One global-scale shared computer may be able to run the entire internet,” was their view.

Well, it hasn’t happened – at least I don’t think it has. Even as a self-confessed technophobe, I’m sure I would have read or heard about it if it had.

I’m full of admiration for the scientists who constantly come up with new systems and surprises that delight us all and that we download or rush out to buy.

My concern is that we’re still pretty poor at using the tools at our disposal.

We are too often found wanting when it comes to communication.

How often do we hear a manager say: “I’ve told him what he was doing wrong. He’s got the message now – loud and clear.”

Then ask the individual for his version of the meeting. The message he thinks he’s heard differs wildly from the one that the boss thought he had delivered.

Let’s turn to emails – all too often written in a high-handed, sarcastic tone that belittles the receiver rather than helping to fix the problem. It’s because emails are often written when the sender is angry and “wants to teach someone a lesson.”

Effective business emails, even those with a ‘tough’ message, are polite and NEVER employ slang or abusive terms. The tone should never be autocratic or patronising. It should be conversational, open and friendly.

There is a skill in delivering negative information in a positive and constructive manner.

An email shouldn’t be long and rambling. If it needs to cover several issues, then send a separate email for each issue to be addressed.

A final plea for those who have to deliver presentations to prospective clients, or at networking events, or in the board room.

My plea, from the heart, please, please, please…

Learn how to construct and deliver an effective story.

Learn how to use Power Point skilfully, not slavishly and predictably.

Facts tell, stories sell.

And that’s what you are doing in a presentation, you are ‘selling’ yourself – your personality, your expertise and your integrity. So, tell a story, don’t simply deliver data.

Being able to tell effective stories is the bedrock of business marketing and will determine your career success.

Steve Ireland is an award winning TV and radio broadcaster and communications expert who is a valued member of our Associate network.