On a recent international flight home to Sydney, I got chatting with the man sitting next to me. It turned out he was arriving in Australia from India at the start of a major life adventure.
He hoped his IT qualification would help him quickly find a job so he could bring his wife and young daughter out in the next few months. He and his wife had decided a move to Australia would provide more opportunities for their child.
With great pride, he showed me photos of his lovely young family. I admired his courage in flying to a country where he knew no one - away from the people he loved.
We talked for a while, then lapsed back into our respective in-flight movies.
As the plane came in to land, I could feel the excitement emanating from the man beside me. He was gazing eagerly out the window, watching the lights of Sydney unfold beneath us. I have to say, the city was putting on a stunning show. The air was clear, the city lights seemed to sparkle with particular brilliance, and as we flew over the harbour he was treated to the Bridge and Opera House at their very best.
He pulled out his phone, hit video and began recording the light show as it dazzled below us. It gave me so much enjoyment to see the unfolding vision through his eyes, even though it was a view I‘d seen many times before.
I could sense the wonder and the mingled emotions he must have been experiencing in that moment. Arriving in a city - albeit a spectacular one - and thinking about his loved ones back home.
Reflecting on this encounter later, I was reminded of the importance - when speaking to others in conversations, meetings or formal presentations – of approaching the subject matter as if the audience is hearing it for the first time.
No matter how commonplace the content, or how many times we’ve delivered similar information, we cannot know how the recipient is framing our message. We can’t predict the significance certain points might have for them, or the emotions or memories we might trigger.
Often people are experiencing our material as first-timers, like my travelling companion landing in Sydney, yet it’s easy to become complacent, even sloppy, in the way we communicate. It’s so important to keep every delivery fresh – even if it’s a message we’ve conveyed many times before – and be as clear as those brilliant lights on that cloudless Sydney night.
You never know the true impact of your words or the significance your listeners are assigning to them. Make each one count.