Communication is important to almost everything we do–and today, we have more ways to reach out than ever before. Lee Broekman of Organic Communication and Judith Gordon of LeadeEsQ presented at the LMA Tech1 conference in San Francisco, focusing on empowering communication by understanding the medium. In Part 1 we discussed some of the advantages and challenges of communicating face to face and through print. In this article, we will examine communication over the phone and panel communication–or any way of communication through a screen.
Phone as a medium is what it sounds like–talking on the telephone either one or one or on a conference call. The danger with this form of communication is all the other things we might be doing while we are on the phone–especially on a conference call–everyone knows how easy it is to click over to email, check Facebook on your smartphone, or start to scribble your to-do list on the paper at your desk. While you are still physically on the call, your attention drifts to the other things on your to do list. This hints at what Gordon calls “the lost art of focus.” She says, “Today’s attention spans have been radically reduced by our tether to technology. We leap from conversation to conversation—from the person speaking to us to email to headline notifications to texts back to the person speaking—without fully engaging in any one of those communications.” Staying engaged on a phone call, and reminding yourself to be present and aware is important when using the phone as a medium. One way to do this is to make sure the conversation is a back and forth–and not just a series of monologues. Additionally, if the call is a conference call with multiple participants, making sure there is a plan in place, so that each participant has a role, and that ground rules are established and enforced, can help.
Panel refers to any form of communication with a screen between the speaker and the listener. With technology, this is becoming common–web meetings, webinars and some panels where there is an audience in the room, but also some audience members are tuning in via videoconference. Gordon says, “Presenters are well served by understanding that their ‘audience’ may be viewing or only listening to a recording at a later point in time, and taking those parameters into account when preparing their presentations.” Going beyond just the people in the room is important–and one way to make sure everyone stays engaged is to have an interactive portion. Another good practice for webinars is to focus on visuals. Broekman says, “When our communication is on a panel, we need to color our black and white text and bulleted lists with vibrant visuals that will captivate our audience and keep them attentive to our intention. Many webinars present dry data instead of information that is new, relevant and interesting. Charismatic conversation, speaker photos and conceptual images in shorter timeframes will go a long way towards making the communication in this channel more effective.”
Another major concern with a panel can be a false sense of distance, and the tendency to feel bold when you cannot see the person you are talking to. This barrier is one reason Internet comment sections can get nasty, and people become callous over social media. These tendencies can be devastating when they seep into professional communications. Broekman argues, “If you can’t say it to someone’s face, don’t say it behind a screen.”
Other pitfalls haunt Panel as a communication method. Like the phone, placing the screen between people communicating removes the opportunity to see facial expressions and body language. Gordon says, “When we remove that layer of information, our brains ‘fill in the blanks’ by superimposing our own judgment, which can be devastating.” Additionally, Broekman describes one of the biggest communication problems as a failure to listen with an intention to understanding the speaker. “Instead of listening to what the other person is saying, we listen to our own internal dialogue and filter information through our personal judgments, thoughts, opinions and ideas.” A screen between parties can only amplify the tendency to hear what we want to hear. With that said, clarity in transmission is crucial, and consistent checks on understanding are important. Above all, awareness of the potential for misunderstanding is important.
For attorneys, communication is paramount. Communication is also very complicated. Gordon says, “to put it simply, lawyers ‘speak for’ their clients. Whether in transactional matters or litigation, lawyers are conduits of their clients’ intentions. To fully and accurately represent another—the essence of a lawyer’s work—understanding the fundamentals of communication is essential. Key communication skills—such as the ability to listen, understand, and then accurately present a client’s position to third parties in negotiations or litigation—are essential to a successful practice, and the smooth running of our legal system.”
Click here to read part one: Power of Communication in Legal Marketing – The Medium Does Change the Message Part 1
1 Broekman and Gordon spoke at the Legal Marketing Technology Conference on October 6th in San Francisco. Their session was entitled Webinars, Podcasts and Mobile (Oh My!) The Medium Does Change the Message. The LMA Tech conference is the largest conference dedicated to technologies that law firms use to identify, attract and support clients.