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Preparing for In-Person Conversations

The NFL schedule was released yesterday. I love schedule release day. I actually enjoy most schedule releases because it allows me to plan, prepare and map out the future.

Unlike my own schedule, the NFL schedule only changes in minor ways. Teams don’t flip-flop days or change their bye weeks. They play the game on the schedule. When it’s time for the season to start there is no option for a team to push back their season opener a few days because they don’t feel ready. It’s go time.

The start of the NFL season (August for preseason, September for regular season games) will also be go time for many people returning to an office building or transitioning to a hybrid work environment. The actual date might not be as locked in as the NFL schedule, but it’s happening.

Now is the time to prepare for that schedule change, the transitions that will take place and the communication skills you need to make it all work. That’s the skill you need to focus on because it’s the piece of your job that will change most.

You’re still going to work on the same projects. You’re still going to have a similar job description. You’ll still be working with the same people you’ve seen on Zoom since last March. You will still have to balance work and home. None of that changes. Everything about the way we communicate does.

Imagine walking into your house and calling out “Where is everyone?” when you expected to see your family sitting in the kitchen without knowing they had set up a backyard picnic instead. A hybrid office is going to feel a lot like that – only the stress levels will be higher because the people you can’t see or find are the ones you need for answers, feedback and collaboration. In other words, everything you need to do your job.

So here’s what I want you to do right now: 

  1. Evaluate how clear you are in your current conversations and interactions with colleagues. Do you say things like: “We should find time to meet in the next week?”

Or do you add additional clarity and say: “We should go over the latest projections next week. It should take about 45 minutes. Do you have time on Wednesday? I can set up a Zoom link.”

Withholding critical information and making colleagues guess and fill in the blanks leads to frustration and miscommunication. Practice being clear and concise.

  1. Talk to people in real life. The stress and anxiety around in-person conversations doesn’t go away on its own. A conversation doesn’t get less awkward by crossing your fingers and hoping it ends quickly. I talk for a living and I have had to brush up on this skill and get back to the point of trusting myself to carry on a conversation in real life.

Find people to talk to for 20 seconds at a time. That’s about four total sentences. Two for you and two for the person you’re talking to.

Lastly, if you are tempted to put it off and just wing it let me bring you back to the NFL schedule. The day the schedule gets released is not the day preparation starts. NFL teams started meeting a couple weeks ago. Coaching staffs started preparing a couple months ago. When Week 1 rolls around in September every team will wish they had a little more time to prepare, but they will also know they game themselves the best chance to succeed right out of the gates because it’s "Go Time."

Here's another way to prepare for in-person interactions - join me for a free webinar Wednesday, June 9 at Noon PT on Talking to People in Real Life. I'll provide insights and strategies that allow you to:

  • Initiate a conversation with greater confidence
  • Identify the missed opportunity in every conversation
  • Minimize awkwardness during in-person interactions

You'll have all the tools to put together a 30-second game plan that makes it easier to talk to people in real life. It's free to register and join!


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