This summer I was honored to be a speaker at the world’s largest commercial interiors trade show, NeoCon.  Each year, thousands of architects and designers from around the globe travel to Chicago in early June to see the latest and most innovative contract products – from desks and chairs to lighting and carpet.  They also come to get insight on the latest trends and sharpen their business skills.

And this is where I come in.

My CEU-accredited presentation — “The most important skill they didn’t teach you in design school” – was primarily geared to students about to enter the workforce.  But the presentation also benefited professionals at all levels, including principals, vice presidents and directors.

So what is the most important skill they didn’t teach you in design school?  Well, it’s the same one they didn’t teach you whether you majored in engineering, finance, accounting or even marketing.  It’s the one skill that is essential in today’s chaotic workplace: how to be a thoughtful and adept communicator.

No matter the industry, the highest achieving professionals – those in leadership roles and those seen as luminaries by their peers, colleagues and clients – are more than just competent in their core job skills, they are also effective communicators.  These are the people who are not just great designers (or programmers or press release writers or cookie makers); they are also great at motivating, inspiring or managing conflict through communication.

My presentation covered three key areas: leadership, listening and artful communication.  Combined, these skills provide the foundation for becoming what I call a “Power Communicator.”  This is defined as someone who leverages verbal and non-verbal communication to enhance their credibility, create trust with others, overcome challenging situations and so much more.

Communication is a powerful tool that can lead to career advancement.  Yet too often it is marginalized (everyone knows how to listen, right?), overlooked or not considered as important as other skills related to one’s job.

I hope those that attended my NeoCon presentation were able to see just how important Power Communication can be to their career advancement.

What are your thoughts?  How do you view communication as it relates to your job and your career advancement?