They Can Smell Fear

What Communicating With My Teens Has Taught Me About Communicating With Any Audience

My kids are just two of millions of kids who will be straggling back into the classrooms in the coming days; some fresh-faced and ready for a new adventure, some kicking and screaming. I’ve spent a summer in close quarters with my sons – a rising senior and a new middle schooler. We’re collectively dreading the early mornings that accompany another school year, but we all know it’s time to get back into a routine…(see above re: close quarters).

As the boys have grown from sweet and malleable kiddos into young men with their own “thoughts” and “ideas,” I’ve needed to become more strategic in how I communicate with them, without them knowing how much thought I have to put into everything.

Turns out the rules that apply to communicating with your teen can also apply to any professional audience you are tasked with communicating with.

They want what they want when they want it. But also, there’s a pretty good chance they don’t know what they want, and it’s up to you to figure it out, using what you already know about them, creative research, or good ol’ trial and error. When you are able to provide what they need you will feel like a million bucks. But, then the process immediately begins again, and you will be back at square one.

Attention spans are short, and they are a savvy bunch, impatient and ready for the next thing. Don’t count on what worked yesterday, working tomorrow.

You need to relate and speak their language. But they can smell it a mile away if you are trying to be cool—or at least something you’re not. If they sense that you are inauthentic, well…forget it. This applies to marketing to teens, millenials, AARP-ites. Really anybody.

You will need to repeat yourself…they will eventually hear you. Figure out a bunch of ways to package your message.

And remember this: They maybe (maybe, maybe, maybe, kind of) need you. You need them, and they know it.

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