Digital communications have changed the way we interact with clients, prospects and each other here at Imbue. Technology has improved the way we do business, but as with anything else, there’s a time and a place for everything. So when should you have an in-person conversation versus a video chat? When is it best to send a text rather than dial a number? There are no hard and fast rules, but below are some things we consider in our day-to-day business communications.
Regardless of how advanced technology has become, there’s something about in-person communications that can never be replaced. Whether it’s a one-on-one conversation, a group meeting or a presentation to fifty people, being able to be in the same room with your audience has many advantages:
- Non-Verbal Cues – When you can see who you’re speaking with, you’re able to read their body language and facial expressions, and even adjust your messaging based on their reaction.
- Personal Touch – Meeting with someone face-to-face shows you value them and the project enough to take time out of your day.
- Confidentiality – Not all business matters should be shared via digital communications. Some documents or discussions are private and better suited for an in-person meeting.
- Focused Attention – While many people check texts or emails in meetings (we don’t here at Imbue), most are less likely to interact with their phones when sitting right in front of someone.
- Real-Time Response – Sure, some meetings may end with the old “We’ll share this with the team and get back to you.” But, for the most part, there is an immediate reaction or response with in-person meetings you just don’t get with other forms of communication.
There’s something strangely ironic about the fact that today more than five billion people have access to a phone at all times, yet the number of phone calls being made are at an all-time low. In fact, many people will miss a call, see it on their phone, then return it with a text rather than calling that person back. It seems as if the more we rely on digital technology, the less desire or ability there is to have a real conversation. Here are a few reasons when picking up the phone can be helpful:
- Tone and Inflection – Many times we can tell more about a situation by how someone says something rather than what they say. And especially when an email or text could possibly be misconstrued, pick up the phone.
- Personal Touch – Calling someone on the phone is a much more personal way to have a conversation than text or email—leverage it when you need to build the relationship or ensure the person can hear and feel the emotion behind your message.
- Real-Time Response – Calling is a great way to reach someone immediately, and get a quick answer.
It’s fair to say that since its inception, email has drastically changed the way we do business. Documents or files that once had to be hand-delivered or (snail) mailed, are easily received within seconds, signed and sent back. Pitches and proposals with tight deadlines can be worked on up until the last minute, then sent for immediate delivery. Documenting and accessing conversations is a breeze.
Email provides us with:
- Time to Think – Unlike face-to-face or phone conversations, email allows us time to think about and carefully craft our message or response before sending.
- Documentation – Once an email conversation is over, you can still access it. It’s easy to save and file emails and refer to them whenever needed.
- Convenience – Not only does email allow you more time to craft your message, it also lets your recipient read and respond at their convenience.
- 24/7 Access – Email is a safe way to send your message anytime, without fear of the phone ringing or text sound alerts going off at inappropriate times.
At any given moment, on any given day, you can look around and see someone texting—regardless of who they are or where they are. The train, the boardroom, the bathroom. People are constantly looking at their phones. So what better way to reach them, right? Well, only if it’s short and sweet.
Text communications give us:
- Immediacy – Most people are attached to their phone at all times, but don’t always have their ringers on or want to answer calls. Text is a great way to ensure they see your message right away. It’s also a great way to relay timely news: you’re running late or the flight is delayed.
- Awareness – Many businesses have customers opt-in to receive ongoing text messages about events, sales and promos.
- Documentation – Like emails, texts are another form of written communication you can refer back to.
We use Microsoft Teams for internal text-based chat at the office, and it’s very efficient for quick notes, fun chatter, and team updates. A tool like Teams or Slack provides a great way to collaborate outside of email and text messaging — putting it all in one searchable place. We’ve got some guidelines that we follow for using Teams versus using email or the telephone (or a face to face meeting). This way we all remember to choose the tool that is best for the specific interaction.
Microsoft Teams and Slack also work great for video conferences and virtual meetings. Which leads me to…
It used to be very expensive and time consuming for businesses in different locations to have real-time meetings. It’s tough enough to get people who work in the same building to meet, but setting up meetings with people from different cities, states and countries was nearly impossible. Video conferencing tools like Zoom, Join.me, WebEXTM, and GoToMeetingTM have changed the paradigm.
Some advantages of video conferencing and video chatting include:
- Cost and Time Savings – With no need to pay for flights, hotel rooms and dinners or waste valuable hours traveling, businesses can save their two greatest assets (next to the employees): time and money.
- Larger Talent Pool – Video conferencing capabilities have allowed businesses to strengthen and expand their talent pool by allowing them to recruit the best talent, regardless of where they live.
- Convenience – What used to take weeks to find a date and space for everyone to meet now takes no time thanks to video conferencing technologies.
- Immediacy – Having real-time discussions allows for immediate reaction/feedback to what is being said or presented.
- Non-Verbal Cues – Like face-to-face meetings, never underestimate the value of seeing the body language and facial expressions of others.
So what is the best mix of communication methods for your business? The answer is a non-answer. It depends and can be a blend of all of the above.