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Communicating and “New” Technology

October 20, 2016

Have you realized the way we communicate has changed as a result of “new” technology?

I don’t mean “technology” causing us to speak in 140 characters or less (Twitter) or causing us to believe a picture is worth a thousand words (Instagram/Snapchat). I mean technology that truly allows us to change the means and methods we use to communicate.video-conf-image

For example, I am part of a new/emerging online university where the primary means of gathering is via video conference or Skype. Academic meetings with the deans or operations meetings with the student services and marketing personnel involve people spread geographically across North America (and once in a while with people beyond Canada/USA). There is voice-to-voice communication as well as the ability to see one another’s face. It is incredible to have a meeting on Thursday with people from South Carolina, Texas, and Alaska from my home in Alberta (Canada) and then another meeting with colleagues in Brazil, Nigeria, India and Georgia (USA) the next day.

This same technology can also be used for international board/conference meetings, saving significant money for travel expenses. It would seem governing boards – corporate and non-profit – could use these technologies more, whether for their annual or semi-annual meetings, or for monthly executive or sub-committee meetings. This would allow for more regular updates for board members on organizational activities as well as broader representation on boards from people they serve. Furthermore, it opens board positions to individuals beyond certain geographic and socio-economic backgrounds that previously were limited.

However, these kind of meetings take some extra listening skills. Some people speak at higher volumes than others and others have more “background noise.” As well, it takes some skill for the meeting leader to keep everyone on track with the agenda and not let one person monopolize the conversation.

Nonetheless, after a Skype/video-conference meeting, the communication challenge begins anew as the to-do list is shared. An email with an attachment can appear adequate, but the sender does not know if individual(s) receiving the message, read it, are acting upon it, or have questions. Ideally, the recipient(s) will ask the sender for clarification. Yet that may happen a day or a week later. Or they may just try to figure it out themselves. The sender needs a method to follow-up with the recipient(s), yet one that does not come across as disrespectful, distrusting, annoying, or intrusive. Some recipients will respond to a follow-up email, while others will appreciate a phone call or text reminder. It takes time for the messenger to know which strategy works for each individual recipient.

What a privilege for leaders to live in this era of technology that makes personal and group communication around the world so accessible. Yet this privilege brings its own communication challenges.

I would be glad to know how you are learning to handle communication challenges & opportunities with these “new technologies.”

 

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