How Your Association can Make the Most of Internet-Based Commnication
In this article, I want to share some ideas that will encourage you to embrace Internet-Based Communication (IBC) for your organization or association. We all learned our ABCs, now let's embrace our IBCs. I will share some communication insights and my experiences as I make the transition from a traditional trainer (ABC) to IBC training. Ultimately, I want to help your organization make the inevitable transition to IBC with your members.
To introduce the topic, allow me to acknowledge that I am an "old school" trainer. I learned effective communication skills as a soft skills trainer with IBM Canada. As such, I am well-grounded in face-to-face communication, reading body language, tone, etc. For several years, I have cursed IBC as being one of the worst things to have happened to society as a whole. The younger generation, however, has embraced the technology and created an entirely new way to communicate via texting, social media, etc. If your organization wants to engage this tech-savvy generation, you will have to embrace their ways of communication to some degree.
It is time to "stop communicating with yourself and start communicating with them."
I have recently begun to embrace remote communication thanks to a new technology which allows me to enjoy the best of both worlds. It is a game changer for me, and I am beyond excited. I will have more to share on that later in this article.
For now, let me set the stage for my transition. Perhaps doing so will help ease your transition into the world of IBC. As part of my journey as a trainer, I have discovered some insights about people that I would like to share with you.
Internet-Based Communication Engagement and Commitment
There are three levels of engagement in people which must be considered:
- Engaged: These people genuinely believe in what is happening, tend to put a lot of effort into it, and tend to focus on the good things about a project/workplace.
- Disengaged: They do what is required, but their heart may not be in it. They are the "silent killer," as their lack of genuine effort affects productivity in any organization. The good news is that they can be converted. Studies indicate that this group can represent up to 50% of most workforces in North America.
- Actively Disengaged: They do not believe in the idea at all. They tend to focus on the bad things about a project/workplace. More importantly, they try to actively recruit others, so they will also see things in this negative light. All of us have moments when we are in negative mood, and it will likely come across to others as though we are actively disengaged. If possible, I try to avoid emails and phones when I am in one of those moods.
Research seems to indicate that our emotions are transferred to others via a subconscious connection - when we are face-to-face. We can feel both positive and negative "vibes" from each other. I am sure you have examples of meeting people who either lift your spirits or bring you down by just being in the same room. If we are not careful, IBC communication can be affected negatively by this in that we might miss important emotional cues.
Any communication has to take this intuitive understanding into consideration. When people text to us, we might have an emotional reaction that is based on our misinterpretation of the content. Of course, some emojis can help with this. I will have more to say on this later. For now, here is an interesting reference about texting.
Behavioural Style Differences
I have invested many years in understanding differences in people, and I use the DISC behavioural model. If you are not familiar with this model, here is a brief overview:
- D stands for Dominance. These people are extroverted and task or thinking oriented. They love new things but resist it when change is imposed on them.
- I stands for Influence. These people are extroverted, and people- or feelings-oriented. They love to talk and interact with others. They love exciting ideas but might buy in without completely understanding how it all works.
- S stands for Stability. These people are introverted, and people- or feelings-oriented. They prefer the status quo and minimal change. They want to trust, but it will take time to develop it. They keep their emotions inside, so you likely won't know if they are disengaged. They are often the largest group, particularly in a service oriented organization.
- C stands for Compliance. They are introverted and task/thinking oriented. They prefer proven ideas, so they will not be very willing to try untested ideas. They will, however, be the best problem solvers when the ideas are being developed.
Resistance to Change
Joel Barker, who is an expert in dealing with change, introduced me to the concept of a Paradigm Shift through one of his training videos. The concept is that, when you are entrenched in any system which seems to be working well, you are hesitant to buy into a new idea. Only when the old ways stop working and you are in what he calls "crisis mode" are you willing to change. The only problem with this is that it might too late. An example of this might be video stores which could not compete with online sales and ultimately had to close their doors.
If you are dealing with similar change resistance, I offer three key elements to consider:
- Proof - What proof do you have that this idea will work?
- Education - What education needs to be provided?
- Trust - What level of trust do you have from your staff/members?
Also, recall the DISC styles for a moment.
High "S" styles will want to know why you are changing, what's wrong with what we are doing now and what's in it for me to adopt the new idea?
High "C" will want to know that you have thought carefully about the long term and short term implications of this change.
Tactics of Innovation
Joel Barker also introduced me to the concept of Tactics of Innovation through another of his training videos. (I am using them as I make my transition to remote communication and so should you.) Here are some relevant insights:
Common Objections to Consider
- It sure looks complicated.
- What if it breaks down?
- I just don't see how this will make things easier.
Although Barker mentions ten tactics, here are the crucial ones that I used in my conversion to remote learning.
- Upside Yes - Is there a perceived advantage?
- Is it better than what we are using?
- Downside No - What are the consequences if the new idea fails?
- The smaller the negative consequences, the better
N.B.: If you have not met these first 2, you should not go any further.
- Easy In – We need to make it easy to try out the new idea.
- Easy Out - Can we revert to the old way easily?
- You may want to offer to go back to the old way if it does not work out.
My Conversion to IBC
Return to previous point in article
I was going the way of the dodo as a trainer. I needed to understand this new world of communication. I will confess that I was actively disengaged when it came to IBC for training and could only see what it did not do. I was wrong, as you shall see.
I started to meet with other professionals who had the tech savvy without the content. My first webinar was held in Africa, and I saw that participants could be polled, and chat functions were available. These functions allowed me to interact with the participants and adapt to their comments. I decided that I would pursue webinars and particularly ones where the participants could see a bit of me visually. In this way, I could demonstrate my positive energy for the topic and show that I was engaged.
My next step was a game changer for me. My tech savvy nephew wanted some help with a presentation he wanted to make for a critical job interview. He used the "ZOOM" process which was similar to Skype but much more sophisticated. I absolutely fell in love with it, and now I use it for remote coaching (and will ultimately do so for Webinars.) Simply put, we can see and hear each other, which is crucial for that emotional connection and reading body language.
I can share my desktop and remote access the other person. We can then be working on a common file. I also share the use a Google.doc that provides a living summary of our ongoing discussion. Finally, I can record my session and convert it to an unlisted YouTube file that can be reviewed after the session or shared with others who missed it.
A very real benefit is that I can eliminate travel, luggage, and workbooks for those times when remote training is the best method. It saves a lot of money for my clients. To say the least, I am engaged, and my positive attitude towards it has been activated.
- Understand the process - What is the upside, downside, easy in, easy out? This is for both remote meetings/coaching and webinars.
- Find the resources - I have the content and have put together a team of mentors, two of whom have the tech savvy. The other two have experience in e-learning and webinars.
- Learn how to use it - Although this is an ongoing process, I have piloted with several people who trusted me. Their honest feedback was crucial to my improvement strategy.
- Try it out - I have a marketing plan.
- Take the time to understand which communication processes will fit into IBC. What is the upside/downside, easy in/easy out? Keep in mind that you should still try to maintain a realistic level of face-to-face communication to build interpersonal relationships. That might be in the form of conferences or regional presentations.
- Create a resource team with both traditional and tech-savvy people.
- Find something that might work and try it out. Start small.
I hope my insights today will help you to understand that since IBC is now the way of the world, you need to embrace it and just get going. Remember to stop communicating to yourself in ways that work for you and think about more about what works best for your audience.
A year from today you will be glad you did.
An important element of Internet-Based Communications methodology remains social media. Associations and not-for-profits must master their social media to keep their online branding intact. Randall Craig discusses this in his book, Online PR & Social Media: For Experts, Authors, Consultants and Speakers.
Randall will also be hosting a webinar on using social media to drive event attendance and engagement in April. Check it out and see how it ties in with what Dave had to say in this article.