Now that most of us are hunkered down in our home offices, our business communications are all remote. Where we once could saunter over to a colleague’s workspace, we are now either emailing, texting, talking on the phone, or videoconferencing. While we are so lucky to have these options, how to know which one to use when? Here are some guidelines:
No offense, but… If your communication has any kind of emotionally component or could elicit an emotional response then video conference or phone are your best options. Written text is VERY easily misunderstood. (Think about how many times you emailed or texted a friend or family member and they took what you’d written completely the wrong way.) Humans get all kinds of signals visually as well as auditorily. For understanding both ways, video is best. If that’s not possible, pick up the phone.
Between you and me… If what you are communicating is private, then a phone call or video conference are your best options. Do NOT send anything confidential via email. Keep in mind, once you hit “Send” you’ve lost all control of the missive and its contents. In other words, no trash talking via email, or confessions of love for a coworker, or tales of a recent transgression – (yours or anyone else’s).
It’s complicated. If your communication is complicated; lots of data, hard to explain, involves many steps, you may want to use a multi-mode approach. Send an email in advance with explanatory info to help the receiver read, perhaps reread and better understand. Then you can video conference and use PowerPoint to emphasize the key points, elaborate, answer questions, etc.
A No Brainer. If, on the other hand, you’re sharing easy to digest information, send an email! If there’s not a lot of info, put it within the email itself. I recommend using bullet points or an outline format to clearly delineate where one idea or data point ends and another begins. DO NOT write in paragraphs. Paragraphs make it impossible for the reader to pull things apart and really see what’s what. Oh, and for God’s sake, EDIT! NO STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS EMAILS.
Get it together, will ya? Speaking of editing, no matter what mode of communication you’re using to get your message across, please take some time to organize your content. Brainstorm if you like, but then sift for relevancy. Weed out what doesn’t belong. Put your information in a logical order. The great thing about remote communication is that you can refer to notes! An added benefit: when you get your content well organized, you’ll have a concise, clear message. You’ll not be frustrating your receiver(s) by confusing them and/or wasting their time.
Let’s face it, pandemic or no, remote communication is here to stay. Learn to use it the right way and you’ll be heard – and seen – and succeed!