Better Communication in 5 steps

Communication has been on my mind all week. I am working with two clients who are located out of town. I travel to their sites frequently, but I do a lot of work with them over the phone and by email. It means I really have to know what the communication needs to accomplish before I start. We place so much importance on that non-verbal communication, that it’s too easy to turn a conference call into a confusing and useless exercise.

Communications errors can be funny

I saw this video recently and it made me laugh, but reminded me of so many faux pas that people commit when they forget that they are in a meeting, not on the phone with friends.

Communication should be effective

I have come up with these 5 steps to make sure our phone communications are as effective as possible.Communication, listen, speak, think

  1. think about what you need to accomplish; for the client and for the project – if you have no goals, you probably don’t need a meeting
  2. set up the meeting as though you were going to be face-to-face; send an agenda ahead of time, even if there is only one agenda item. Having an agenda will focus the attendees on the meeting.
  3. clarify at the beginning of the call why you are talking and what needs to be achieved, and at then end what the next steps might be. This gives you two opportunities to check in with all of the people on the call.
  4. be clear who will call whom so you don’t end up waiting on mutual hold.
  5. document the outcomes immediate after the call and share it with the attendees.

This has worked really well for me and I’m sure you have other suggestions. What do you do to make sure your distance communications are as effective as your face-to-face communications?

Or what stories do you have about conference calls that went awry?