There’s nothing worse than the thought that you might be wasting valuable time stuck in an e-mail inbox, on the phone, in Teams/Zoom calls or even in physical meetings when you don’t have to.
It’s also very easy to get immersed in the medium that you’re already communicating in. For example, if someone sends you an e-mail, your default response might be to send an e-mail back.
The next time this happens, see whether you can catch yourself and think “Is this the most effective way to communicate at this moment in time?”.
The below is a list of modern business communication tools and my views on how to best use them:
1. E-mail – A wise man once advised that using e-mail should be like the way you would have previously sent a physical letter in days gone by. This means it should be well thought out and valuable to the recipient with a clear indication of next steps. Short and to the point more often than not and perhaps longer when sharing more information. Some common mistakes people make are sending short e-mails that litter e-mail inboxes for no reason. Could it be a quick instant message in teams or slack? If you’re trying to organise a meeting, would you be better off using something like Calendly instead? Would it be quicker to pick up the phone if someone’s just looking for a brief update on something?
2. Microsoft Teams/Slack [Chat/Channels] – With the introduction of platforms like Microsoft Teams and Slack, and even tools like Trello, it’s easier to have group conversations, without needing to formally schedule meetings. They’re also great for pulling together what would have previously been multiple e-mail threads. For example, you might have a marketing team that are updating you via e-mail on content ideas, advertising spend, PR, website performance etc. Would it make more sense to create a ‘Team’ with a channel of each sub-topic. Working in this way makes it much much easier to categorise topics into group conversations. Don’t use this medium for short messages when a simple chat message or phone call would do however, you don’t want your team channel or slack conversation filled with useful tags or requests for updates.
3. Phone Call – Yes, it does still exist as a business communication tool, especially if you know your teammates are travelling or suffering from Zoom/Teams fatigue. It’s also great if it’s time for you to move around a bit. Maybe organise a phone call meeting where you can walk and talk instead of having to sit in front of a camera. As mentioned previously, instead of e-mailing someone back, perhaps phone them instead and put the issue/query to bed there and then. Also, don’t forget to leave clear voicemails, especially if the issue is urgent.
4. Text – Best used for those you have closer relationships with. If you’ve a feeling they may be in a meeting, but still have their mobiles on them, a text might work if it’s something urgent. Likewise, texts might be more convenient if you’re working outside office hours. You’re not disturbing someone in the same way as if you were making a phone call. They’re also a way to give quick updates. I love it when you can reply to a call with a text to saying I’m in a meeting and will call someone back.
5. WhatsApp/LinkedIn Audio – These are lesser-known mediums but worth a mention. I’ll use a personal example of WhatsApp audio first as I’m, in the process of selling my house. My wife and I have a WhatsApp group with our estate agent, and instead of writing texts, she records short audio clips to update us. I think this is great as it a) saves her time in writing a message and b) it’s a lot more personal as we can hear the inflexion in her voice. Moving this example to LinkedIn, again instead of an impersonal line of text, a short audio recording with someone in your network will tell a better story.
6. Teams/Zoom/Face-to-Face [Video or In-Person] – Reserve these types of meeting when for when they’re absolutely essential. Especially if you have multiple senior team members whose time is very valuable, perhaps think twice about consuming hours of their time in a meeting. Your checklist for this type of meeting is to ensure a) that the topic is urgent enough to demand an amount of time, b) that you have a clear agenda for the meeting c) that you’re clear on what your objectives are and any next steps. IMPORTANT – There is no point in organising video conferences or face to face meetings when a phone call, channel update or e-mail will do.
Are you communicating in the most effective way?
Feel free to contact me for further advice or guidance. You can also subscribe to my newsletter for weekly updates.