“Communication is everything. Because, yes you can understand business, yes, you can understand statistics, but if you cannot interact with another human, then you might as well just be your own personal silo.” – Thomas Landis
Communications is a subject that is one of the hardest to measure and therefore incredibly challenging to research. Thomas Landis, a Lecturer at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, introduces riveting techniques to his students to further their soft-skill palette. Using his degree in business and communications, Landis lectures several sections of BUS-C 104: Business Presentations to expand students’ minds on communications.
Janani Venkatesan: Why were you drawn to the subject of communication?
Thomas Landis: I hear about these students majoring in Finance and wanting to go to Wall Street, and there’s part of me that’s like, ‘man, maybe that’s something I should do.’ That would just never work for my life. Because it’s not who I am. Truly, my goal was that I wanted to know how to send a message and organize groups of people, and that’s how I stumbled into Communications. The most important aspect is understanding audience-centered messaging. You can be the most excellent consultant, but if you can’t convey that information to your clients, potential clients, and customers, and express “what’s in it for me”, then you have nothing.
JV: How has learning communication aided in your business ventures?
TL: When going into business, it was one of my majors and I found that Communications helped me greatly since I was in sales for some time before teaching. The goal of trying to get somebody to buy the product was never really important to me, but I could do that if I needed to. What was more important to me was connecting with my clients and educating [them]. I had picked up some tricks on how to send and receive messages that helped me package that material in a way that was convincing. At the end of the day, what I have found in business is being able to establish that connection with others above all else.
JV: Are there notable individuals that have inspired you?
TL: Honestly, one of the Fathers of communication, Dale Carnegie, that framework that he set up is something that I have been able to rely on even in my personal life. Overall, though, communication is the applied arm of psychology, in my opinion. Many of the people I look to are psychology researchers. John Gottman is a great example and we study him because the way our brain functions, impacts how we work with each other and interact.
JV: What are the cons of this subject? (i.e. why would an educated individual advise against this subject)
TL: Communication still doesn’t fit in to any category. It’s a new field relatively, and for example, there wasn’t the first communication article from the Communications department until the 1980’s. The biggest questions to ask here is, where does it fit and how do you measure impact and emotional connection? The main difference between this course and something like math or English, is that it’s not analytical because the way we interact is going to be different person to person.
There was a NACE [National Association of Colleges and Employers] survey in 2017, and basically it had asked all employers in the network “what is it that you’re looking for in recent college graduates?” The answer: communication and leadership. When further asked “what are you seeing in your college graduates”, guess where there was the biggest gap was… communication and leadership. The fields that we are required to excel in out there looking for jobs, is an area that is difficult to place in the education and research system. Where does it fit as a field, as a class, as a subject? It is so clear that not everyone sees the value. It’s a soft skill and about feeling. It’s hard to measure feeling, but the one thing that we can measure is materials like the NACE study.
JV: What would you say to students who are questioning the need for business presentations?
TL: After taking business presentations, you are equipped with the skills that people would not necessarily write down on a sheet of paper, but are going to say, “this candidate seems more competitive than the other candidate.” People who have really embraced and understand communications like job applicants, students, case competition participants, truly anyone, are able to clearly articulate a central argument in a way that resonates with your audience. Which truly is the main takeaway.
Title image courtesy of KELLEYSTAFF@IU
- NACE Staff. (2017, December 11). Employers Rate Career Competencies, New Hire Proficiency. NACE. Retrieved from http://www.naceweb.org/career-readiness/competencies/employers-rate-career-competencies-new-hire-proficiency/