Episode 10: 8 Tips to improve communication

22 Oct 2014

We apologize for the audio issues. We're trying out a new recording setup and a new room to record in, so please bear with us.

In this episode, we give you 8 tips to improve communication whether you�re a client, a contractor, or just about anybody. I feel like this is probably the most generally-applicable episode we�ve done so far. Whatever you do, you probably have to communicate, and you can probably be better at it. I know I can improve and probably fall short on several of these points.

Use the right tool for the job (email, phone, text/IM/iMessage)

We have a lot of tools for communication available to us, and some are better suited to certain tasks that others. Use the right tool for the job, rather than simply using e.g. email, twitter, or Facebook messaging for everything.

Use email less

Email has become our de facto notification system. Between all the SPAM we get and the legitimate, but unnecessary (think how many emails you get where you read the subject line and promptly delete them because there's nothing more to do with them), emails, it's difficult to find the email we actually want to read, often prompting us to check email less and less frequently. If we all use email less, more communication can happen faster.

This is also the case with long conversations. Many people have told me how much they hate long email threads with multiple recipients, favoring a 15-minute phone call over a two-week email chain that (eventually) accomplishes the same thing.

Send shorter emails

Long emails are long and overwhelming. Often we start reading them, they get marked as read, and we leave them half-read without ever actually getting back to them. Further, shorter emails are clearer and more concise, getting to a single unambiguous point and leaving the recipient with no question about the primary purpose of the email.

Set aside time to return phone calls

If you're anything like me, you get a fair number of phone calls. You also have a fair number of meetings, and sometimes the two coincide. However, we also have times in our day when we're not battling a barrage of calls or meetings, and this serves as a perfect time to return any calls we've missed from the day before. By specifically setting aside time to return calls, we don't feel like we have to "fit it in" around other things, which ultimately leads to it not getting done.

Leave a voicemail

Voicemail gives you the opportunity to give the recipient an idea of urgency and time commitment of your conversation: does it require a callback while they're on their way to their next meeting or can it wait until they get back to the office? Will the drive to the next meeting allow enough time for the full conversation? Voicemail is also more flexible than an SMS, as it won't get lost in the sea of other text messages.

Give out your phone number

People are social and often prefer to talk to someone than send an email that may or may not reach its destination. This is good for customer service and good for building relationships. People who want to talk to you will call your phone number and people who don't won't. Spammers don't find your phone number on your web site; they try every phone number they can and see which ones pick up (the same goes for email addresses and is a big cause of SPAM).

Recognize that �do not disturb� is an option

This is less of a way for how to communicate and more of a way to help you feel less overwhelmed by communication. If you feel like answering phone calls and emails are preventing you from getting work done, this attitude is likely to leech into the language you use in your phone calls and emails. Try turning on "do not disturb" or turning off your phone/closing your mail client and setting aside time to reply to anythign you've missed at the end of the day.

Put a time limit on phone calls (and stick to them).

Mention this up front in the conversation to set expectations. Capping the time you spend on specific phone calls helps you focus on the topic at hand and speak more clearly and concisely. This keeps additional unrelated conversation from affecting what you remember and ultimately reduces the number and length of future phone calls.

This podcast also mentions that next week's will be on effectively using development resources available to you. We've opted to go a slightly different direction for the rest of this season, focusing more on how to effectively make use of technology in the face of changing expectations and frequently-quoted "best practices," discussing whether or not they really are "best practices."

Next week's podcast will cover 5 common digital marketing assumptions that are often incorrect.