To Be Professionally Informal

Careers Nov 29, 2021

To be professionally informal is to maintain a sense of relatability with the audience while still talking about the various fields that we are interested in. Of course, with great deep dives, but what is an important distinction here is the [[Articulation]] of specific points.

By going against the grain of corporate branding (eg. LinkedIn people), we can stand out more with younger audiences by being so professionally informal (think of Apple's copywriting) that we seem like your neighbourhood friends.

It's fine if we're not too intense in our ability to be business writers. That's all good. There is a greater focus on vernacular patterns of speech when crafting copy, and that makes it so much more powerful than any other skill.

Knowing that we can sound like friends is a critical advantage as a business.

Video Version:


To be professionally informal is to maintain a sense of relatability with the audience while still talking about the various fields that we are interested in. Here I try to explore why that is so!


  • 00:00 Intro
  • 1:06 DTC Brands and personal companies
  • 2:18 What is being professionally informal?
  • 4:06 Penguins and Funko Pops
  • 5:42 The humane element of a backdrop
  • 8:01 The advantages of informality
  • 8:59 Disadvantages to informality
  • 10:18 The future of professionalism
  • 12:11 Questions you should ask yourself


[00:00:00] Norman Chella: I have a problem with being professional. I'm not sure what it is, but for some reason, as soon as I see a video where someone seems to constructed, too formal, too corporate, I feel absolutely no relation to their position whatsoever. And therefore the message breaks down mid-communication. As soon as I see something say on LinkedIn, where someone is, you know, with a full-on setup in a full suit and with, uh, an extremely corporate background, uh, office, you know, backdrop, et cetera.

I start to look up to the video as opposed to look equal to the video. It's a bit like the semantics of, uh, Witnessing a company move and you're just a person. All of a sudden you notice the differences in scale, you are just this individual who is just, you know, going through social media feeds. And all of a sudden, you, you see this video of someone who's looking very corporate, uh, and all of a sudden their [00:01:00] professionalism somehow makes you dissociate from the intention.

DTC Brands and personal companies

[00:01:06] Norman Chella: In a world where we have, you know, DTC brands direct to consumer brands. We have B2C brands that are trying to cater to, uh, the public. The thing is the public isn't exactly professional. So how is it that you can create a professional company-like relationship yet still be friendly, uh, to your customers. And I've seen some people handle this very, very well where you have a face to the name of the company.

you have like a, for example, an independent writer or an independent journalists. They don't put their face up front, but they do put a brand name which helps dissociate them from their actual, like personal identity and all that, which you know, is a valid advantage. But their messaging, their communication, how they handle themselves on social media, you can tell just from their tone, their semantics, that it's as if you're talking to a person [00:02:00] that's like the biggest one. The biggest one is that I'm not looking at a gray slate building.

I'm looking at a person who will shake my hand when I'm talking to them about it. And this is where becoming professional is starting to become a problem for me or like an issue. Maybe that's a little bit too strong. I'd say a challenge. Maybe that's better.

What is being professionally informal?

[00:02:18] Norman Chella: So I I've been trying to explore the notion of becoming professionally informal.

Now a little bit about me. I am part of a co-founder of a podcast company here in Malaysia. And we have like lots and lots of calls with people who are interested in starting a show, uh, brands or companies coming up to us and being like, Hey, what's happening in podcasting in Asia, et cetera. And I'm, I'm in this exact setup.

Like I'm talking to them right now and I'm giving them the low down on stats and metrics and predictions on what to do, um, how to position yourself as a podcast or et cetera. So, so that conversation in itself is very professional. By that [00:03:00] context, like according to the goals, according to the outcomes, according to the intentions from both parties, I'm trying to be useful to you and you are trying to get something out of our conversation with us.

Like that's an example, or if I were to give a keynote and I be showing my slides or, well, I take my, my sides are a little bit different. I take notes and I showed those notes raw on screen. That requires me to be presenting myself in front of a whole crowd. And I, you know, push that out. Uh, and people will be talking to me, et cetera and we'd be having a great keynote or performance together.

And that sort of thing. It's very performative and that really helps with the professional look, but to be professionally in formal, it feels like something that. Shall we say harnessing that state of being professionally informal for a very long time. I mean, look at my background, like this is my bedroom.

I'm not gonna lie. This. Isn't like a fake background thing. Like, this [00:04:00] is like, like, this is a, this is an actual, like, this is my, my, what, this is where I sleep.

Penguins and Funko Pops

[00:04:06] Norman Chella: This is where, like I put all my stuff. Like these are all the things that I've collected back when I was in like uni and I had an obsession with penguins.

So I had like. Like, uh, you know, that, that big guys called fat Ricky or big Ricky rather. And then this is actually a music box penguin. Well, let me show you,

[00:04:24] Norman Chella: so it's like a mama penguin, right? And then there's a baby penguin and then you pull.

also have like cross section of vehicles in star wars episode one. And I also have like limited edition Funko [00:05:00] pops up there does the Stan Lee one when he visited Supanova in Australia in a couple of years ago and some Pokemon stuff and Mr. Crabs. Also Doraemon in the corner, like, which is apparently it's like a KFC logo in there.

Like that's not professional at all. You would not see, this is. In like a Deloitte consulting, big four office, you would not see that. I'm pretty sure the CEO of such a big company, it wouldn't be having like, like their Yu-Gi-Oh deck on, on like, on public display in front of them. Like, there's nothing intimidating about that.

It's like irrelevant. There's no resonance at all. And it just defeats the context.

The humane element of a backdrop

[00:05:42] Norman Chella: But I guess in a world where, you know, a pandemic is about, and we're doing zoom calls or. There is this human element behind being able to see the backdrop of someone who is just living their life in their house. Of course, it's sort of like a necessity because we're now working from home, but what [00:06:00] this helps with, and I think I've noticed this a lot better now, minus the people that I've been meeting with in person, we normally try to put up a front when.

Go to someone's office. Of course, it's professional, right? To be professional is to create a, an impressionable impression. So as to make things as efficient as possible to get to our supposed outcome, because there are risks involved, normally financial, normally time-related et cetera.

But, in a world where we're not doing a lot of things on zoom and you just can't help, but have stuff in the background.

People are having their calls in kitchens. People are having to calls in the living room and sometimes their kids will come in. Sometimes their dogs start barking and all that stuff. And for me, I have to do all this, like in this room. So it's not like, I can just move my bed. Like I can't. So I just embraced it.

I just thought, okay, why not just decorate everything around me so that, yes, this is where I sleep. But. My humane side will not be muted for the sake of a professional [00:07:00] context. I would rather show you who I am as a person through my backdrop, even if they are all non-verbal. Um, so as to give you a memorable impression. It may not be the best impression, but it will be a very memorable one.

And there's nothing stronger than finding ways to keep someone to memory. Because that would maybe serve you later on in life in terms of just keeping calm, keeping in touch with people, uh, friendships, business relations, um, your proximity.

Most of the time, your proximity is your lifeblood for anything that you do, whether it's a career, whether it's your dreams, whether it's just finding a way to increase the, the, the net from which you can capture things like muses opportunities, et cetera.

most of the time, it's just through someone else, someone else who just remembers that you have this dumb, giant penguin in the corners like, oh yeah, this guy does podcasting. I forgot why don't I just like refer him to someone I know, et cetera, and that can work.

And that has led to some interesting conversations and they remember [00:08:00] me for them.

The advantages of informality

[00:08:01] Norman Chella: Like, that's just way better. So I really advocate for being professionally informal. So like some advantage would be would be to have that better impression. And then the one is that relatability helps better with resonating with the audience of your intent, depending on your service or your work or your, um, or your mission.

People just believe humans better than companies. That's just theirs. It's kind of hard to go against that. So why not make yourself a lot more human by showing your interests behind you? And that's why we have streamers with amazing Twitch setups and they're showing all of their, you know, figures and, and, you know, favorite memorabilia and stuff like that.

And their hobbies. Like I'm going to be moving to another place soon. And, uh, hopefully I can have like, you know, bookshelves showing all the books that I've read and the ones that I wrote margins in, um, notes in the margins rather. In the corner, I think they'll be pretty sick. So, you know, I'm just waiting on that.

Some advantages to being informal

[00:08:59] Norman Chella: Um, some of the [00:09:00] disadvantages of course, is that you will potentially be irrelevant to companies that are very strict in the professional acumen when it comes to meeting with someone. Would it turn someone off, for example, if I'm just showing Doraemon in the corner and then I'm meeting someone who is like extremely, you know, like a hedge fund or an institutional fund, like they, you know, I'm assuming I've never had one, a call with a hedge fund before.

Unless they want to have a podcast for the institutional funds. That be pretty, pretty cool. I think probably internal B2B private feed, but that's a whole other story, but would it be too distracting if I have all of this stuff behind me? What would it be, uh, too irrelevant? Uh, would it be too much of a distraction? Would it be too, too strange?

Would it put someone off that, that someone who was just going through this conversation is going like, oh, you know, I just want to go in, talk about it and then get out. Um, but that could be a potential [00:10:00] disadvantage, depending on your targets. Would you want to be with someone who is just trying to bear with the fact that you have a very strange backdrop, then maybe the conversation may lead to something a little bit.

I don't wanna say toxic, but like negative or it will leave you in bad taste. So yeah.

The future of professionalism

[00:10:18] Norman Chella: So all in all, I have a feeling that the future of being professional online will be broken. It will be extremely fragmented. The number of participants in general, small economies for specific markets will cater towards more humane companies that have a face that have human, almost irrelevant off-topic connections with regards to their mission and the purpose of their conversations.

The people that you would want to consult with our coach with you would know them more for their potentially private lives or their hobbies and their interests, et cetera, [00:11:00] which add to the semantics and builds up the density of the context from which you're talking to them about what you're meant to be.

So like someone who loves star wars would see that it'd be like, oh my God, that's so cool. Holy crap. Like, I want to talk to you more now. Like, it doesn't have to be about podcasting, but it can be, that could be the primary, but then the secondary could be something that you see in the background. And also your professional informality?.

Is that a word. I don't know, can be seen in all of your tweets, your blog posts, your articles, your videos, your podcasts. How, how hard do you laugh as a guest on another episode? How, how do you conduct yourself when you're giving keynotes? Do you swear on fireside chats? Some people do. That'd be pretty awesome.

I'm not at that position yet. I feel like I would. If I'm comfortable enough because I'd normally swear a lot in real life anyway. Um, and also, uh, on tweets, like how off topic are you? Like? I'm very known for being very inconsistent on Twitter [00:12:00] because people follow me for like podcasting stuff. But I talk about other things like love and intimacy and, and crypto and, and also Japanese and, um, on note taking or whatever.

Questions you should ask yourself

[00:12:11] Norman Chella: Yeah. But there in comes, the questions that you have to ask yourself in a position where your only window, or your only channel for getting to know somebody or for someone to get to know you is digital. How do you make the most out of your physical environment to create a physical impression through a digital channel?

And once that is articulated really, really well, there in comes, the fine tunings of that answer so that it becomes a viable channel to bring people to whatever you want them to do. Whether it's, Hey, you know, watch my YouTube videos or, Hey, listen to my podcast or, Hey, um, uh, [00:13:00] I have these services. Would you be interested?

Would you want a coach? Like for example, I do like memory coaching. Would you want a coach to be more adamant about showing their interests and how they remember things? Does that add to the intended context of me being a viable memory coach that's one example, right? Or for podcasting, would you want to trust someone with more microphones in the background then zero microphones.

Or would you want to trust someone who doesn't even have a microphone for when they're recording a video? That's a potential question. Some people might be like, Ew, oh my God, blue Yeti, what? And something like that, you know? So there is this professionalism that needs to be addressed. And I feel like, yes, there is a place for pure professionalism, but then there's also a place for different synonyms of professional.

Professionally human professionally, informal professionally. Cool. Professionally warm, professionally, lovely, professionally friendly, being so good at being friendly that people forget [00:14:00] that you are a business. You are sustaining yourself. You're putting food on the table. You forget.

And that's how powerful impressions can be. So yeah, hopefully that would make you think about how you present yourself online, whether you would, you know, incur or, uh, manifest this level of radical honesty, uh, on the internet. I try my best to. Um, I'm probably like maybe 90% honest online. Uh, the only some parts is probably something that's just, you know, maybe just inappropriate in general.

And I just wouldn't want that online and that's okay. You know, these are, these are viable decisions. These are definitely valid decisions rather. So what do you think, would you be more professionally informal? Would you still stay professional or would you have this constructed impression and make sure that everybody, uh, thinks of you that way only.

And I think that speaks to some level of anonymous or pseudonymous identities, but I think I can talk about that in another video. So [00:15:00] yeah, take care.



Norman Chella is the Podcast Rainmaker, Polymath in Progress and a very strange writer. His creative pen name is N.T. Cloever. You can find his words right here.

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