In this Lightning Cast, we’ll explore different forms of communication and decide which to use in different contexts.

A Lightning Cast is a shorter form episode modeled after lightning talks.  You’ll get valuable content in 8 minutes or less.

You don’t always need to meet face-to-face.  However, you do need to choose the right communication format for your message.  The wrong medium for your message can lead to misinterpretation, confusion, and delays.  So which format should you choose?


Email: Choose email for one-way broadcast messages that are direct and easy to understand.  It can also be used to reach a large group to inform them of updates, sharing documents, and for simple requests for which a quick response is not needed.  Make sure the subject line and beginning of the message provides context.  Avoid email for collaboration and when you need a fast response.


Instant Message/SMS: Choose instant messaging (IM) for short, simple requests or updates.  Be sure to set the context so that you and your audience start on the same page.  Avoid IM when you need to collaborate and when the subject is complex.

Similar to instant messaging is the use of tools such as Slack.  Slack notifies groups of new messages, allows you to use text and pictures, and allows everyone to see responses.  The difference with Slack is that it keeps the communications thread even after users shut down so you can search it later.  It even allows you tag specific users or groups and react to messages using emojis.


Phone: Use phone conversations and conference calls when you require interaction with the listeners, when you expect questions, or when the subject is a bit more complex.  This is a higher bandwidth communication medium because it brings in tone, rate of speech, vocal inflection, and other para verbal cues to develop a better understanding.  Avoid using the phone when the subject is more complex or you need to build relationships and trust.  You can augment phone conversations with screen sharing tools for more complex issues and better collaboration.


Video: Use video conference tools to help strengthen relationships and increase collaboration.  Video allows you to pick up on both para verbal and non-verbal cues, leading to a richer discussion.  This medium also helps to lessen the possibility of multitasking and other distractions.  If people are collocated and you can meet face-to-face, avoid video and go directly to that channel.


Face-To-Face: Meet face to face to build relationships, discuss complex issues, and come together to collaborate and solve problems.  Face-to-face communication allows you to pick up on more non-verbal cues and it’s often easier to hear people speaking than over video.  It can be difficult to schedule face-to-face meetings if people are geographically disbursed or if you’re meeting with large groups.


Face-To-Face with Whiteboard: This allows for some of the richest communication.  The combination of face-to-face communication with the ability to engage the listeners through movement and visuals is extremely powerful.  Discussing topics face to face with a whiteboard leads to rich conversations and ensures everyone is on the same page.  You can engage others by handing them a marker and asking them to draw their ideas or concerns.  This is a great approach for collaboration and problem solving.


Choosing the right medium for your message will allow you ensure that your message is received as you intended.

Listen to the full episode to understand how to choose the right communication medium for your message.



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