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21st Century Skills in Action: Communication

In the second of a short series of posts we’ve interviewed our Head of Production, Brian Shaw, about communication in the production process at MakeMatic. Keep an eye out for contributions from other team members on creativity, and critical thinking

-----------Plato was right when he said that wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.Communication infiltrates every element of our lives, whether that be verbal, written or non-verbal.At MakeMatic, communication is critical to our success with our in-house teams, those we partner with and the vendors we work with.But what does communication look like when you work in a production company?


As Head of Production, I spend 80% of my time, on the road travelling between our two locations: Derry/Londonderry and Belfast, and on location at shoots in the UK, Europe and the United States. I’m a ‘mobile employee,’ someone who relies heavily on technology for day-to-day communication. That’s why I use many forms of digital communication on a daily basis. I use email, instant messaging, Google hangouts, and Skype. But I must admit my favourite digital tool – what I call ‘the one truth’ – is Asana. It’s amazing. It helps me organise my teams, track project progress, manage workflow and deadlines. I’d be lost without it.


The thing about using digital forms of communication is that so many things can be misinterpreted and go horribly wrong. That’s why I have some very simple rules when it comes to communicating with team members, partners or vendors.The first thing is good manners. This is essential. A simple ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ doesn’t take long to say or write, but it can really set the tone for your interaction. This is especially important as much of my communication is via the written word. I also believe that good manners reflects the type of people we have working for us and represents what we value here at MakeMatic.


An oldie but a goodie, the K.I.S.S. principle – “Keep It Simple, Stupid” – is imperative when communicating with others. Communicators in our business who aren’t clear and concise will struggle.Mostly we work with educators, many of whom have very little, if any, knowledge of the production process. It is imperative, therefore, that we communicate clearly how our process works and keep jargon to a minimum.


Closing the loop means that, when collaborating with a stakeholder or team member, action points and things that were agreed on are documented and sent to all parties after they have been agreed upon, to ensure that everyone is on the same page.


Having strong interpersonal skills is imperative in my line of work. Talking shop all of the time is so boring. It's very important that I build relationships with those I manage and work with. Knowing what makes people tick, their strengths and challenges, will mean I get the best out of them.


So in a nutshell my top tips for communicating in production are:
  • All communication should be clear, concise and polite
  • Digital tools should be utilised
  • Interpersonal skills matter
Connect with Brian on LinkedIn

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