Duncan Epping posted a great article today, that also had a link in it to his “Confessions of a VMUG Speaker“. Both articles are great and got me thinking about the topic of communication skills. Not public speaking by itself but what I’ve seen over the years as it relates to a person’s various communication skills both as an architect and as a person in general. I wanted to provide a little insight that may help you along your journey, and it may be one of those things you might need a mentor to help with.
VCDX Is Not Just About The Technology
Wait a tick….I thought this was a technical certification. Well, it definitely is, but it’s also about your communication skills as an architect. As architects in any field we communicate in multiple ways. It’s actually a very complicated thing when you think about it. We all know about many of these but let’s think about them as they relate to your VCDX journey.
- Written Communication
- Verbal Communication
- Non-Verbal Communication
- Visual Communication
VCDX Written Communication
This one is pretty obvious. This is your documentation set and your application. This is the FIRST thing the reviewers see to get to know you, and guess what they say? First impressions are everything! Your written communication skills on your package reflect what the panel sees as what you would submit to a REAL customer. Think about this for a second. Is the package you just sent the same quality that you would have handed to a paying customer at the end of an engagement? Is it orderly? Does it have a flow? Is it easy to read and find the various documents that the panel needs to review? Basically…..if it’s a “hot mess”, don’t send it yet. Back when I was in Architecture school the same thing applied. Building projects have document sets that would make your MIND BOGGLE! We are talking hundreds of thousands of pages of building specifications that all the contractors need to be able to read AND understand.
VCDX Verbal Communication
Some people have questioned the aspect of this at a defense saying “I should not have to be a good public speaker for this certification”. To that frankly I call BS! Your ability to clearly and articulately explain your decisions VERBALLY is crucial. If you cannot explain yourself and time ticks away as you just grasp for words, you are not moving forward during the defense. Granted, you don’t need to be a person that speaks to huge audiences, I will grant you that, but does it help? Ever done a presentation and had Q&A at the end and been put on the spot in front of a room of 1200 people? Well, I have, and I can tell you that’s a LOT harder than speaking clearly in front of three people. If you are not comfortable speaking in any situation, you better get comfortable.
VCDX Non-Verbal Communication
This is most commonly referred to as “Body Language”. Your body language can speak volumes about your confidence. It goes very much hand in hand with the verbal communication. If you are pacing around, jiggling change in your pocket, leaning on a wall it all says something. I recall years later after becoming a panelists myself, and was chatting with Frank Denneman and he told me about my defense, he actually said my body language made the room “comfortable”. I was leaning on a chair, I also talk a LOT with my hands. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just me I’m not one to stand still, I never have been. For some that can be overly distracting, but it’s something you have to work on. I’ve even been reviewed by professional speaking coaches to help me become better at combining my verbal and non-verbal cues together.
Note: A panelist cannot and will never give you 1:1 feedback on your defense, but the feedback you get could include some of this type feedback. The situation I am referring to with Frank happened at least two years later, and after we were both trained panelists. We were comparing notes on our personal defenses and discussing the things that made some people very successful and examples from my defense came up in conversation. The context of that conversation should be made clear.
VCDX Visual Communication
This is one of the MOST important and it’s what I refer to as “Whiteboard Syndrome”. I’m a visual person by nature. I see things easier if you draw it for me. I cannot tell you how many defenses I have sat in where someone just stands there trying to explain something, when a 30 second picture no matter how crude would have explained it better. I’ve also sat in some defenses where the whiteboard does unused for almost 30 minutes! I’ve also seen people use it as a crutch and never leave it. The message here? Find the balance between none and too much use of visual communication. If you think you can explain it better with a picture……then for heaven sake…..DRAW IT! Think again about a building architect. They use elevations, sections, models, and renderings to show people what the final design will look like and to help contractors build it properly.
Work on your VCDX Communication Skills
In all seriousness you need to remember architects are good communicators. You cannot survive as an architect if you cannot stand in front of a group of customers and explain yourself. I also think so much communication is done in 140 characters, many have forgotten the basic communication skills. If you are not comfortable or you’ve lost some of these, this is a GREAT place for mentors to help, or anyone in your circle. Do a toast at a wedding, tell a joke to 25 people, do something to get more comfortable communicating. You can always get better with a little practice.