Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Typeface vs. Face-to-Face

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “When the eyes say one thing, and the tongue another, a practiced man relies on the language of the first [the eyes].” Studies continue to show that nearly 90 percent of all successful communication is dependent on eye contact and movement, tone of voice, posture, hand gestures, dress, and facial expressions.

Components of human interaction

Both face-to-face and digital communications make up different components of human interactions. So, ask yourself the following questions to determine the most appropriate method: Do you need one- or two-way communication? Is the content confidential? Is speed an issue? Is a certain type of feedback needed or required? Is your communication formal or informal?  

Face-to-face (FTF)

Think for a moment about successful presidential candidates such as John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. All were known for their relaxed, personable, and approachable demeanors. Also-rans such as Michael Dukakis, Bob Dole, John McCain, and Mitt Romney had stiff body language. When Barack Obama debated Hillary Clinton, she chopped the air with one hand, then the other in order to make strong points. Obama raised his left hand, extended his index finger and thumb, and seized the moment to turn the tide of the conversation. He was thought to be less aggressive, more relaxed, and more approachable. Positive body language wins elections, wins employment, wins sales, and wins friends.
On a more personal level, perhaps you recall going into your favorite store where the people who worked there recognized you as you walked through the door. You knew each other’s names. You shared a welcoming smile, small talk, and often asked about each other’s families or recent holidays. Those brief personal meetings made you feel connected to each other in a very personal and emotional way. Personalization and emotions are what define our humanity. FTF communication is preferable when you need to

·        Have a give-and-take (two-way) conversation
·        Hash out an agreement or discuss sensitive issues
·        Seal a high-stakes deal
·        Have a confidential conversation
·        Make sure there are no misunderstandings
·        Build relationships and develop networks
·        Let people know they’re important
·        Build credibility and trust
·        Promote a positive climate
·        Encourage teamwork
·        Validate if people are in agreement
·        Communicate bad or negative news
·        Energize others

If an in-person, FTF connection isn’t possible, consider Skype, FaceTime, or any other technology where you have visual cues. A secondary option may be the phone; you can learn a lot more from a person’s voice than you can from a digital message.

Typeface (or digital technology)

In today’s society, it’s hard to go anywhere without seeing people using their smartphones to text, tweet, email, and frequent social networks. We live in a world where communication through typeface is almost required. It provides for faster and more efficient ways to communicate. However, many professionals are complaining that our new digital skills have had a negative impact on our ability to communicate personally, clearly, and reflectively. Digital messages are abbreviated and impersonal. They are often thoughtless and lead to misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and drama among friends and colleagues. People have tried to simulate facial expressions by adding emoticons, bold, color, italics, and avatars, but none of them can replace the message you get by seeing someone’s facial expressions. Digital communication is preferable when you need to

·        Send a quick reminder
·        Confirm details of a complex FTF or phone meeting
·        Make a straightforward request and announcement
·        Share information that doesn’t require a discussion
·        Communicate after your normal business hours across the continent or globe
·        Schedule meetings
·        Create a permanent record or paper trail
·        Ask a quick question
·        Give a simple answer
·        Get something out quickly when FTF may take too long to arrange
·        Send a thank you (And don’t forget handwritten notes for special occasions.)

Perceiving body language

See how well versed you are in the art of reading body language. Although body language is often determined by culture, what hints do the items in the numbered list suggest in the United States? Select from Aggressive, Defensive, Nervous, Bored, Interested, or Confident.

1.      Firm handshake                 
2.      Overly firm handshake       
3.      Weak handshake               
4.      Drumming fingers               
5.      Crossed arms or legs                     
6.      Avoiding eye contact                     
7.      Downcast eyes                  
8.      Standing too close             
9.      Leaning slightly in               
10.    Leaning slightly away                     
11.    Looking at clock                
12.    Hunched shoulders            
13.    Hand to cheek                               
14.    Confident stance                
15.    Finger pointing                   
16.    Tilted head                        
17.    Prolonged tilted head                     
18.    Brisk, erect walk               

Answers: A-C, 2-A, 3-N, 4-B, 5-D, 6-N, 7-D, 8-A, 9-I, 10-D, 11-B, 12-D, 13-I, 14-I, 15-A, 16-I, 17-D, 18-C.

sherylwrites.com   (c) 2015

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

A Case for Brevity

Our U.S. representatives and senators routinely vote on huge, complex bills (often hundreds or thousands of pages long) without ever having read more than a brief summary. As an example, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is 11,000 pages long, and most lawmakers admit they didn't read anything more than the summary. These convoluted bills are then enforced by the courts down to the level of punctuation.

Contrast that… with the fact that the original U.S. Constitution—the supreme law of the land—was a mere four pages long. And it was written in plain language.   

Lesson learned... Keep it short and simple (KISS). The less you say or write, the more impact you will have. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

How a Simple Storyboard Helps Command Attention and Get Results (Virtually)

Joining me in writing this is Nancy Settle-Murphy, Principal of Guided Insights. We offer practical approaches for presenting important recommendations that grab and keep peoples' attention, wherever they are. Picture this: You've put hours of work into finalizing your recommendations for next week's executive team meeting where the fate of your project (and perhaps your job!) will be determined. You have no more than 60 minutes to present and discuss some radical ideas about how to reallocate project resources. You're convinced that you've developed a bulletproof case for change -- if only everyone will listen long enough to hear it.

Since meeting time is short and you want to allow maximum time for discussion (and, you hope, rapid agreement!), you've posted important content to review ahead of time, along with an invitation to provide questions, feedback, ideas and potential concerns before your meeting. Most people took your invitation to heart, and by now you have a good idea where people stand. So far, so good. You're in the process of designing your presentation and creating your meeting agenda. Since you will be leading the meeting from a conference room with several of the senior leaders, with others participating from various locations, you know that a critical success factor will be keeping everyone absorbed, engaged and enthusiastically participating in a productive dialogue.  

Identify why your audience should be invested. Throughout the workday, we all listen to station WIIFM. Perhaps not the radio station, but the station in our heads -- What's In It For Me. Understand why your audience should care about what you're presenting. Perhaps it will be an opportunity to generate higher earnings, create goodwill with a key client, make people look good to their superiors, make a team more productive, or jump on a wonderful opportunity. Understand what's in it for your audience.  

Determine the one key point you want your audience to remember. Billboard advertisers, ad agencies, marketing specialists, and the like, know that people retain short bursts of information best. Imagine that you have to write a 15-second commercial to capture the single point you want your audience to remember when your presentation is over. Condense this point into a single sentence. This key point will be the driver for your entire presentation to help you, and everyone else, stay focused.  

Create a storyboard. A storyboard is a multi-column table. In the left column you write what you want to tell your audience. In the right column you write what you want to show your audience. (You may create a third column for an additional purpose such as noting how long each segment of your presentation should be.) Too many people jump right to creating PowerPoints when they need to make a presentation. That means the presentation becomes all about the slides rather than about the relationship between the speaker and the audience.

Open boldly. Tell people right up front that your goal is to make this meeting more compelling than anything else they have to do in the next hour -- including emailing, texting, posting, or chatting to a colleague. Present this as a shared responsibility. Let them know that you have put a lot of thought into the content, format and flow that will best help people make a well-informed decision. At the same time, remind them that they are responsible staying focused and contributing fully to the conversation. (Of course, how you word this will depend on your relationship with your audience.)  

Keep people on the same page, literally. Many people send presentation materials out in advance to ensure that everyone has access to it during the meeting in the event of a technology glitch. This thoughtful gesture can backfire when people start flipping through your presentation material, blurting out comments and questions, which can quickly derail your agenda. There are a few ways to help prevent this. First, let people know why you're sending this material ahead of time, and ask them to follow along with you during the meeting so everyone stays on the same page. Then at the start of the meeting, reiterate your request to have everyone follow along. Remind people that they can record any questions either in a shared virtual space, or on a piece of paper nearby, so when the time comes you'll be ready to respond.  

Deal with anticipated resistance right up front. When the stakes are high, and people need to make tough decisions, you can anticipate at least some resistance. Deal with this right up front. Make sure you are well prepared and collaborate with a person of influence, if you can. At the beginning of your presentation you may say, "I realize that some of you may still have reservations about [topic], but I'm hoping to show you that [key point]." Make sure you have a plan for following up with those who may need to talk through certain points, even if they say they're on board with the decision. You may also want to make notes on your storyboard as to when you might need to go "off script" if the conversation suddenly veers off course.

Balancing participation near and far. Those in the room with you are likely to dominate the conversation, simply because it's easy to forget that others are on the call. Here are a few tips for keeping participation evenly balanced throughout your meeting: Put remote folks on notice that you will be inviting everyone to participate, even if you can't see them, dissuading multitasking. Call on remote participants first. For every comment made in the room, seek out another perspective from someone outside of the room. If just a few people are remote, print and place photos of them prominently around the room.

Make sure everyone has easy access to the visuals you're using, and call out slide #s as you move along, just in case. If you observe visual cues in the room that convey important information, pause to describe them out loud, so everyone feels part of the meeting. (Examples: Jeff just got up and drew three circles as he spoke. Anita is rolling her eyes right now. Everyone around the table is beaming.)  

Plan to wrap up on a high note. Allocate a reasonable amount of time to discuss your ideas and reach agreement, and then work backwards to determine how to best use the time up front. (You never want to reschedule another meeting because you miscalculated the time you needed for critical conversations!) Once you've reached resolution (assuming the best!), be ready to spell out what comes next, when, and who's responsible.

Having a checklist handy helps make sure you've covered important details. (Example: "Jerry will be posting meeting notes that reflect decisions we made today, related steps, and questions that need answering. I will notify the team about our decisions here today, and will relay any significant feedback or concerns to Cindy, cc'ing all of you. You will see my 30-day progress report on our project site, and I will send a pointer to you via email.") And before you end the meeting, make sure to thank everyone for their time and their active participation. Say it with a smile! In a virtual world, you have very little time to grab and keep the attention of those who we most need to reach. By creating a storyboard, you can map out how best to reach the hearts and minds of your audience, using both words and visuals for maximum impact. Prepare well and you'll dramatically increase your chances of success!

sheryl@sherylwrites.com (Copyright 2013)

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Creating Websites for Smartphone Adaptability

With the recent explosion of smartphones and people using them for everything from computers, phones, cameras, and calendars to viewing movies, listening to music, and more—it’s critical that your website is adaptable to smartphones.

Here are some tips for making your website smartphone adaptable:

* Remove unnecessary content. Heavy content may be difficult to download and read.
* Chunk your information. It’s easier to read small multiple pages than it is to read long segments.
* Use lots of powerful headlines so people can view your key points at a glance.
* Make your navigation clear, concise, and easy to locate.
* Be aware of how your graphics will appear. Many smartphones (especially the older ones) have a lower resolution than a desktop or laptop and some will resize your images.
* Avoid flash, cookies, frames, tables, and non-standard fonts. Some smartphones may not support them.
* If your content is long and needs to be re-written, consider creating a separate page (or pages) for mobile viewing. Tip: Put a link to your mobile page(s) at the top of your standard pages, especially on the home page which is where most people enter.

Test your pages on as many devices as possible to be sure they’re easy to view from desktops, laptops, tablets, and a variety of smartphones.

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. http://www.sherylwrites.com

Friday, December 31, 2010

How Geographically Dispersed Teams Can Bring Email Into the New Age of Communication

Although many companies are turning to instant messaging, texting, and social networking to communicate the written word (And, yes, they threaten to eclipse email in the future) for now, however, email remains the No. 1 engine that drives communication among geographically dispersed teams. Bring your email messages into the 21st century to accommodate the younger generations who want just snippets and the older generations who want the niceties. This article details how to….

* Deliver your message in the subject line.
* Write for people reading on handheld computers.
* Look beyond the snippets to the niceties.

Deliver your message in the subject line.
When you think of how people communicate through Twitter using a maximum of 140 characters, communicating through the subject line is a very realistic, simple, and practical way to deliver information at a glance. Imagine how informative your emails would be if you deliver your critical information in just a few words, just as newspapers do through headlines. Here are a few examples of how to turn non-descript subject lines -> (to) straightforward subject lines that deliver the message quickly:

* Team meeting -> Team mtg moved to May 7 @ 2:30
* Profit report -> 15% profit expected for Q2
* June 5 -> Deadline for ABS project moved to June 5
* Possible dates -> Would July 6, 7, or 8 work?
* New hire -> Brad Jones joining IT team on April 5

If you don’t need supporting text, let the subject line be the message by ending it with your name, your initials, END, or EOM for end of message. The first bulleted item above can be the message when you write "Team mtg moved to May 7 @ 2:30 —Brooke.”

Note: When you abbreviate, be certain the recipient will understand your abbreviation. For example, in the United States, we recognize 5/6 as May 6. In Europe or in the military, they recognize 5/6 as June 5. Be attuned to other abbreviations as well.

Write for people reading on handheld computers.
Many handhelds display only a few words in the subject line. That very valuable real estate will determine whether the intended recipient “gets” your message. With such a limited field of view, it becomes a matter of what to skip, what to abbreviate, and how to start. For example, if there’s a critical action item, consider starting the subject line with the words Action needed, Action requested, or Immediate action needed. In that way the recipient knows what’s expected. (And if something is truly critical, consider picking up the phone as well.)

Look beyond the snippets to the niceties.
Many people of the “Y” generation think of email as their parents/grandparents means of using electronic tools. Gen Yers want immediate gratification and have often referred to email as lame. They want snippets, not niceties. Niceties, however, can’t be ignored. Here’s a perfect example of what happens when they are:

A client asked me to facilitate an email workshop after having had a major misunderstanding with an Irish company it had purchased just a few months earlier. The Irish company was complaining that the Americans were rude. Not understanding why they were perceived as rude, the American team invited their Irish counterparts to visit them in the U.S. Complaints were a simple as Americans send emails and didn’t bother to write please or thank you, and they never use a salutation or closing. They’d shoot off abrupt messages such as, “Need your answer by tomorrow.”

Insert the niceties such as please and thank you (when appropriate) and always include a salutation and closing in the body of the message. Additionally, think of the who, what, when, where, why, and how questions your recipient will want answered, and condense the answers to those questions in the first sentence of the body of the message.

Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. http://www.sherylwrites.com

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Send Pre-work to Create Engaging Webinars

When you have a controlled number of enrollees, pre-work can be a key ingredient for engaging them prior to the webinar. Pre-work can shape the direction and content of the event and start the learning process before the enrollees even “show up.” Pre-work can involve any or all of the following:

Ask for photos. This will let you see everyone. You can prepare a slide that shows enrollees around a conference table (or tables if the group is large). This will help them to form connections and will lend itself to group conversations.

Solicit questions. This prepares enrollees for meaningful conversations and can address any concerns and issues on their minds.

Email your bio. Enrollees can get to know you, so you don’t start your webinar with details about who you are and what you do. You can jump right to the content.

Ask enrollees to read something. This can be a white paper, website, link to a publication, case study, or anything that will get them prepared to jump in and be ready to go when the webinar starts.

Send a self-assessment survey. Help enrollees understand where they are in the [topic] experience.

Send your slides. This will enable learners to discuss them. A novel approach is to include a question on all or several slides to promote discussion through voice or chat before or during the webinar.

Pair learners up for brief phone conversations. Even a 15-minute conversation about something you sent (the pre-reading perhaps) will start conversations and build in accountability.

Send a workbook to use during the webinar. This will let enrollees know that your webinar will be interactive and they won’t merely be sitting in front of the screen hearing your voice and seeing slides pass before their eyes.

Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. http://www.sherylwrites.com

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Learning and development trends

The 21st century is ushering in the new social learning revolution. Today’s workers come from a variety of cultures and generations, and we must address the requirements of this diverse, global audience. Companies understand that the current trends are all about interaction. The following are some of the trends we’re seeing:

Webinars. Virtual classrooms will continue to expand and technology will become increasingly more sophisticated allowing more interaction than ever before. Instructors still hold classes, only the participants don’t have to be together.

Video. Low-end videos include those you see on YouTube. All you need is a camera and some basic editing savvy. High-end videos are expensive, but the cost can be justified for certain types of training. You can include pauses where learners interact or perform certain tasks, and make the experience very participatory.

Social networks and social learning. This involves sitting at your computer or mobile phone and interacting with others. Social networks are creeping into companies and many have embraced Twitter within their own organizations. Others have created home-grown internal social networks. In addition to instant messages (IM) and chats, these are other avenues for people to get information and answers to questions quickly.

3-D. Although this technology is new for L&D, it’s expected to become the next generation of training.

Podcasts and blogs. These are associated with more formal learning and are gaining strong footholds in the L&D repertoire.

Simulations and virtual labs. These are used mostly in technical and scientific learning. You can make a quick simulation, drop it into the learning experience, and learners experience a simulated lab.

Suitcase programs. Curriculum is created and taken to offices around the globe. Local trainers deliver the program and sometimes one or two facilitators travel with the program. Some programs incorporate video and videoconferencing.

Expertise locations. This is where subject matter experts (SMEs) within a company, regardless of where they’re located, will be called upon to share their special knowledge and skills.

Mentoring. Mentoring programs are adding a lot of zest to L&D as companies are providing mentoring for orienting new hires, bridging the multi-generational and cross-cultural divides, transitioning people into management roles, and spearheading succession planning.

Mobile. Mobile technology is still evolving for training purposes. Presently, what may work well on one mobile phone, may not work well on another. However, components of more complex learning will work on most mobile phones and are being used now.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. http://www.sherylwrites.com