Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Are we communicating the best ways possible?

Today has been an adventure in communications. It has been interesting to see what has gone wrong (and why) and then wonder if we're communicating the best ways possible. And...of course...what does this mean for us as we work to implement new projects (digitization or otherwise).

What went wrong today?
  • My e-mail was clogged by a message (likely a legitimate one) that had a 1 MB attachment. My computer couldn't download it and I finally had to deleted from the e-mail queue.
  • I received a voice mail message this afternoon, where the message wasn't clear and (I think) the person didn't leave a phone number or e-mail address so I could have contacted him back.
  • Tonight at a meeting of business professionals, I was reminded of how easy it is to get mired in tech-talk and details, sometimes when they aren't needed.
  • Tonight I was also reminded that some of the technology terms we use really aren't widely known. We -- you and I -- are not like the man (or woman) on the street.
So the lessons from today?
  • Use language that your users, coworkers and management will understand. This means that you may have to say things differently to each group and that's okay. It is important that they understand you.
  • Leave out the technical details, if your audience (especially patrons) don't need to know them. Keep technical explanations understandable.
  • When you're using technology to communicate, use the technology correctly. Use the correct etiquette.
  • "Tell them what you're going to tell them. Then tell them. Then tell them what you told them." Okay, that seems really odd, but the idea is that you build some repetition into your talk or explanation, since people often need to hear something new more than once in order to understand it.


John Trosko said...

As someone who's not totally a techie, I am really enjoying reading your blog, and the "custom" content. Your tips today for effective communication were really on target. If you ever get to Southern California, let me know. I might be able to schedule a speaking engagement with some organizing professionals-- see my blog for more info.

Jill Hurst-Wahl said...

John, thank you for the compliment. Over the last 20+ years, I've worked with groups of people who have come from various backgrounds and cultures, and with people who spoke English as a second, third or fourth language. That has taught me to try to communicate clearly by leaving out jargon and acronyms as well as using universal examples. I do fail -- frequently -- generally when the right words just won't come to me, or when I fail back into the phraseology I learned growing up in South Central Pennsylvania (heavily influenced by the Pennsylvania Dutch, who -- of course -- weren't Dutch, but were German/Deutsch).