Redefining Professionalism

In a world of information overload, sound bites (or should that be bytes), and information “snacking”, I have noticed a trend away from what was formerly referred to as the professional touch. That professional touch was the way information is presented and/or displayed as distinct from the content. Whether that is in cleverly designed PowerPoint slides, infographics, or grammatically perfect and correctly spelled blogs, the attention to presentation detail was paramount.

However, over recent years there has been a much greater focus on content messaging with an underlying need for brevity, relevance, and lucidity, and less emphasis on how “pretty”, or indeed grammatically correct, the presentation format is. Perhaps this is due to Twitter-style communications including Instagram, SMS messaging, acronyms, emojis, and contemporary abbreviation trends.

Whatever the cause, it is a growing trend and seems to be acceptable across the board with some exceptions. Those exceptions are mostly in traditional professions such as legal where the correct grammar and spelling is necessary for clarity of intent. That is also the case in the graphics arts sector who value their work on the presentation layer itself as distinct from content.

Does this trend towards conveying the core message as concisely as possible to an expanding audience of Gen X, Y, and Z most familiar with this new world of communicating mean that professionalism is dead; I think not. What it does mean is that professionalism should be redefined as how good you are at having the key message you wish to convey being interpreted as quickly and accurately as possible by the receiver. The fact that it may not be presented in copperplate precision or advanced calligraphy should no longer be seen as a lack of professionalism.

Digital transformation has enabled us to be more productive than ever, yet it seems to have made us even more time poor. That being the case, we are much less inclined to be drawn into any communication which consumes our time with any amount of content that is not fully relevant to the task at hand.

The classic example of this is in the use of instant messaging rather than a phone call. A message can be a) direct to the point, b) controllable by the sender and receiver as to how and when it is acted on, and c) does not contain anything which drags the subject content into any other area unless mutually agreed. Further, we can use abbreviations, acronyms, and emojis which support the message in a quickly understood way. A phone call however is much more likely to cover broader areas (eg social niceties), have the potential to consume more time that you or the receiver intended, and is a struggle if you try to shorten the communication with acronyms and abbreviations in real time.

My point in putting the above position is that if you are still the person who notices every grammar error or spelling mistake, then perhaps you need to change. Not only is this no longer the best measure of professionalism, it will also distract you from understanding the message being conveyed. On the other side, if you are still spending hours and hours on your PowerPoint slides so that they are “slicker” than everyone else’s, maybe you should re-visit the message you want to convey.

Geospatial data analytics and AI Advocate / Strategist / PropTech / HealthTech / Supporter — Indigenous Opportunity / Food and Wine Critic (Not professionally)