Miscommunication Multiplied: The Communication Technology Gap at Work

Communication and TechnologyMiscommunication multiplied. That seemed to be the bottom-line challenge in an informal survey I did last month to gather some preliminary information on  attitudes and challenges relating to communication at work, specifically those challenges related to technology and generational differences.  

A few comments from respondents:

35 year olds like electronic communication. 45 yr olds like to pick up the phone.”

“I’ve had countless times when a 5-minute conversation accomplishes more than half a dozen emails.”

“I wish people would still use the old fashioned phone to call someone when they have an urgent problem or request instead of trying to send an e-mail or text message.”

“My work team could greatly benefit from more personal communication on a regular basis. There is too much reliance on text-based communication.”

I think prevalence of text based communication creates a CYA, finger pointing atmosphere when something goes wrong. The problem is amplified since people don’t get to know each other much beyond the keyboard.”

“I think technology has helped us communicate with one another and communicate with more people in a week then we ever were able to communicate to 15 years ago. Technology has been a positive development. “

“People don’t always take the time, when writing, to make sure communications convey their intent, or even a complete thought. People “think/perceive” something different than is intended, but don’t ask for clarification. Or if they do ask for clarification and (depending on writing skills) are misunderstood or perceived to be confrontational.”

“We lower the standard by trading speed for accuracy.”

“We have become an increasingly shorthand society for communication.” 

“They (Gen Y) are capable of multi-tasking and are more familiar with today’s technology than Baby-Boomers who might get frustrated easily with today’s technology. Neither one is better than the other, it’s just that we need to learn to live with each other’s talent and appreciate them for what they are worth.”

Read the complete survey and responses here.

Note: the word cloud at the top of the post was created using wordle.net and contains the 50 most common descriptive words used in comments by respondents.

What is your experience with communication and technology?  Is there a communication technology gap where you work?

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Why Can’t They Just Pick Up the Phone?

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“Why they can’t just pick up the phone and call?” asked the man, a local business owner attending a Saint Paul Chamber meeting. The furrow between his eyebrows deepened.

Earlier, I had asked him, “What communication challenges have you seen in your business?”

He told me that the greatest challenge for his business was employees relying almost exclusively on email to communicate with clients. The problem, as he saw it, was that it seemed like his employees would rather spend days going back and forth dealing with an issue via email than pick up the phone and have a real-time conversation that would resolve an issue more quickly and with less confusion.

Email has several advantages, including convenience, traceability, elimination of phone-tag, the ability to carefully think out your communication, etc., but when is it time to step away from the keyboard and pick up the phone?

Consider using the phone when you need to:

-Get or give an immediate response
-Resolve a simple situation quickly
-Cut through confusion
-Negotiate
-Discuss something confidential
-Understand shades of meaning conveyed by tone of voice and immediate responses
-Apologize for something “big.”
-Deliver really bad news

Your thoughts?

Texting: Why Teens Love It

The young man, a high school student speaking in an extemporaneous speech competition, addressed the topic with confidence.  He had been given only 10 minutes to prepare a 3-5 minute speech.

“Texting has become a major means of communication.  Why is it so popular?”

How ironic. When I agreed to judge at a Business Professionals of America high school speech contest today, I was doing it because I want to support young people’s efforts to become better communicators.  I’m concerned that texting and social media seem to be eclipsing face-to-face communications.

What would he say?  I leaned forward and started taking notes.  At the end of his presentation, I had one major thought; texting has not adversely affected his ability to talk!  Then, as the luck of the draw would have it, the next speaker also had the same topic.

I value the ideas that young people have and find that often the first ideas, ideas which haven’t been researched or massaged into the perfect five paragraph essay, are ideas that are near and dear to the heart.

Here is a summary of the points these students made regarding texting vs. phone calls:

1. Private conversations—texting is more private than a phone call because it is silent.  As one speaker said, “If I’m sitting on a bus and talking to my friend on the phone about where I hid the pirate treasure, the guy next to me will hear it and might steal the treasure.  If I text the information, only my friend will know.”

2. Non-Interruptions. Texting doesn’t have to interrupt an activity.

3. Easier to Multi-task Multi-tasking is easier because you can ignore the text message for a while.

4. Multiple conversations are possible.

5. On-going conversationYou can take your time with responding.  The conversation can “linger” and occur with larger time breaks than on the phone.

6.  Time differences (Time zones) are less important because you can text and respond when it is convenient.

7. You can text a picture (or a link, etc.) to give the conversation more meaning.

Imagine if these students had more than 10 minutes to build a case for texting!

Why else do you think texting has become a major means of communication?  And, what are the positives and negatives that you see?

4 Easy PowerPoint Principles for Visually Engaging Slides

I have to admit it–I’m not a big fan of PowerPoint presentations.  Not as they are usually done, anyway!  A bunch of text or data thrown on a screen isn’t very engaging.  Worse yet is when people read their slides.  However, there are a few things you can do for your very next presentation that will make your presentation “pop” and engage your audience.  Do you have some other simple tips?
Slides with transcription of audio:

All too often a PowerPoint presentation is the Kiss of Death for an audience.  You don’t want to be THAT presenter do you?  Today I’m going to give you some EASY ways to make your PowerPoint slides “Pop” that your audience will love!I’ll briefly give examples of 4 EASY Power Point Principles:

1. Go BIG—Use Big Pictures
2. Create Contrast with Pictures not Words
3. Try the Photographer’s Secret—The “Rule of thirds”  for eye-catching slides
4. Less is More—the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle for PowerPoint Presentations

Here is an average PowerPoint slide:  Title on top, picture on the bottom.  It could be worse—it could be all text.  It could be a difficult-to-see picture.  Or there could be too many pictures.  So, it’s not too bad.  But there is something really simple that you can do to have a greater impact.

Yep—just use a BIG picture.  Let the picture take up the whole slide, if possible.  Rather than have a title, Just talk about the slide or maybe have a single word “Empowerment.”  When a picture takes up a whole slide our minds imagine the picture bleeding off the edge, so it’s even bigger than what you have on the slide.

Here it is again, the average PowerPoint slide

Big Picture Impact

A different crop—and maybe a little more interesting.  Try using the “Photographers Secret” The Rule of thirds for some of your images

Imagine your slide divided into horizontal and vertical thirds—the intersections are the “Power Points” of your Power Point slide —where the focus of your image can have greater visual impact.  It can also give a picture a different “feel”

Here’s the same picture with the grid overlaid. Now, you don’t actually have to have a grid.  You can just estimate it.

  Here’s another tree picture—quite different from the first!

  Notice that it is fairly centered.  This picture gives me a sense of foreboding and a feeling of being dominated –like I can’t escape.  What if I crop it just a little bit differently?

This is only a slightly different angle—but having more sky on the right gives me a feeling of greater hope.  Play around with your composition and evoke different emotions in your audience.
You can also use the rule of thirds with placement of people in your pictures.
Again with the grid overlaid.

So, Do you want to Stand Out in a crowd and have your PowerPoint Slides Be more visually interesting to engage your audience?  Remember to use BIG PICTURES and . . .

Try using the Rule of Thirds—You can use it to place pictures AND TEXT in the Power Point positions!  Another way to engage your audience is to use . . .
. . . Eye-catching contrast.  Our brains are hard-wired to notice contrast.

Don’t do this—don’t make your text color and background color too similar.  It might be easy for you to see on your computer screen but it isn’t so easy from the back of the room.

Easier to read, isn’t it?  However, some of the best use of contrast isn’t really in what you write.  For example, let’s look at the weekly groceries for 2 families. This information is from the book “Hungry Planet.”

Here’s a family from the U.S.  I could, like many presenters, also read the slide to you, which begs the question—why have a slide if you are just going to read it?  Just note that they spend a lot of money.

Here’s a family from Chad–$1.23.  It’s hard to imagine isn’t it!?!  But is there a more effective way to present the information—a way that will have greater impact?  Remember the saying . . .

 A picture is worth . . . a thousand words!  Here is another way to convey the contrast:
The groceries that the US family consumed in a week.

A week’s worth of food for the Chad family.  Pictures are a shortcut to our minds.  They are a short cut to our emotions.  A picture is worth  a thousand words.

And LESS is MORE!  With a picture you can convey MOREwith using LESS—fewer words can actually help people understand what you are trying to get across.  Let’s say I wanted to compare the percentage of people who own multiple dogs vs. the percentage who own multiple cats.
I could use a table.  Note my table contains extra information.  I really only want to talk about the fact that 40% of dog owners own more than one dog while 52% of cat owners own more than one cat.  Maybe a chart would be easier?
Well, Maybe not—I had to write out the statement “Cat owners are more likely to own multiple cats”  What if we just used a couple of pictures?
40 percent of dog owners own more than one dog while . . .
52% of Cat owners own more than one cat.  Much more appealing—Less is More, our final principle.

Also remember to:

Go BIG—Use Big Pictures

Create Contrast with Pictures not Words

Try the Photographer’s secret—The “Rule of thirds”  for eye-catching slides

I do have one bonus principle for you . . .

This is me.  I like to have fun in my presentations—and you certainly can add some fun to your slides

—even little changes can make them fun.   Don’t let your PowerPoint slides be the Kiss of Death!

Keep it Simple, Bold and interesting and your Audiences will love you!

Cell Phones, Potty talk and the Cone of Silence: Yes, I Can Hear You Now!

Imagine that you were with me when I was in a stall in a ladies’ restroom . . . on second thought, maybe don’t imagine that!  Anyhow, I heard a “Hi, there. How’s it going?” coming from the stall next to me.   I bent down and looked under my stall both directions and saw only one other pair of feet.  It was just her and me.   Not to be rude,  I replied, “It’s . . . going fine, how about you?”

Then, she said, “Can you take Joey to soccer at 5?”

What?? I didn’t even know her and she wants me to . . . Ohhh . . .

Yep, she was on her cell phone.

Since when did we need to talk on the phone and use the toilet at the same time?   OK. Guilty.  But at least I do try to hang up before I flush.

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Geek Overload

X6ZDNQ9XESY7 That strange code is just so I can get my blog listed on Technorati.  Apparently that’s how I prove I manage my own blog.

It seems like I am learning new geeky stuff every day!  Earlier this week, at an Inspired Women Networking Meeting, Joanne Funch, talked about Montage, a way to easily make a visual album on any topic you want.  You can include pictures, video, text, RSS feeds and more.  Here is one related to my business (it took me about 15 minutes to make):  Small Talk Montage

Another site that I learned about from Michael Roby, was SpeakerWiki.  Here’s my SpeakerWiki Page. If you have heard me speak, please recommend me on my page!