Technology is only half of the Solution, using our words wisely, both written and spoken is the other part of the solution to effectively communicating.
One of the biggest challenges any of us face in our careers and maybe even personally, is communicating effectively. Sub-standard communication or lack of it altogether, can severely damage or hold back an organization or an individual.
In the business of Audio Visual Communications, there are numerous potential pitfalls in the regard, ranging from improper cable selection and management to not being clear with your team members to bad instructions from those above us– many more. Communication builds relationships and all business is about relationships. With that in mind, let’s look at a short list of “best practices”.
- Determine a clear sense of logic before starting the communication process. What are the priorities? Who is the intended audience? Is there anything they need to know before the next part of the message? This will be helpful in paring away unneeded bits while making sure the important stuff is included and emphasized.
- Treat your vendors like customers. Pretty simple right, but in my experience over the years, I haven’t seen it happening as often as it probably should. Basically, if we can’t treat our vendors the same way we would want to be treated as customers, we’re missing out on a host of benefits. How would you like to be addressed? Do the same to your vendors. What information would you need if you were on the other end of the phone or email? And, it almost goes without saying that we should do the same thing when communicating with our clients. (Right?)
- Keep in mind that various forms of communication are better (or worse) for certain purposes. Face-to-Face is still the best way to communicate with someone, and some of the reasons are interesting. For one thing, non-verbal cues like body language and facial expressions are shared and understood. But another, more sublet thing with any technology based communication method is that humans are extremely sensitive to timing. Certainly, we’ve all been frustrated by cell phone conversations where there’s a noticeable delay and /or dropouts. It can drive us nuts when we can’t seem to “get in the flow” of the conversation. As it turns out, people can perceive timing discrepancies in a conversation well below 1 millisecond (a thousandth of a second). Video conferencing lets us see and hear each other, although the timing might be slightly off due to latency. And there’s no personal handshake or hug at the end that can add affirmation of what has been discussed. On the phone, we can at least hear the nuances and inflections in each others’ voices. Way down the list is email, which is devoid of all these subtleties. In other words, we should focus and take care to generate written communications that are straightforward, along with following common grammar and spelling conventions as much as possible. One problem is that folks don’t seem to want to take the time to do this anymore and on the other side, sometimes they don’t want to take the time to thoroughly read an entire message. Which leads us to:
- Keep the communication direct and to the point. We’ve probably experienced times when a carefully written email with 17 important points receives a one-sentence response that only addresses the first point. If you’re like me, you want to reach through your computer screen and strangle someone when that happens. But is it their fault? It’s taught me to be very economical with words and ideas and prioritize them from most to least important right out of the gate. Read through the whole doggone email before responding! Maybe read it twice! Also, if it’s a thread, try reading the whole thing to get valuable context. There have been many times I’ve fallen into the trap of just reading the tip message and not knowing all of the background before responding. Oops!
- Texting can be a great way to reach someone immediately and hopefully get a quick response, but it has drawbacks. There’s no convenient way to store the information offline. Some devices don’t attach dates/times to messages, so it can be difficult to figure out a timeline if needed. It’s also not good for longer messages.
- With in-person, video conference and phone conversations, be careful not to “listen to reply” This is a common problem and often makes things worse than better. In other words, take the time and put in the effort to listen…carefully. An old school technique is to reply first by summarizing what was said before adding new information. This can sometimes be overdone but the idea is still valid.
- Conclude the conversation or meeting with a summary of what was decided, and who’s going to do what. We have no doubt all been in countless meetings where this doesn’t’ happen because everyone assumes that everyone else heard what we heard, and plans to act upon the information in the same way we plan to act. Way too often this isn’t the case, and besides it never hurts to have a five minute summary conversation. And don’t forget to take notes!
- Be Timely. No one wants to receive valuable information about the next day’s important gig at midnight. At the same time, sending a message too early can also be problematic, because the information can be easily forgotten.
- Finally, we need to keep our egos in check and remember that we were all once eager, starry eyed young people looking up to our elders in the industry and lapping up every utterance. We vividly remember those who treated us well and those who did not. It’s important to treat others with the respect and humility and the best way to do this is with clear, consistent, logical communication in whatever form that makes the most sense for the situation at hand.
Think about all the great quotes on the internet that seem to capture some really important concepts in just a few words…and the impact they make when you read them. Now imagine yourself doing this every time you had to convey a message to your team…imagine the awesome impact!