Business Communications - make them effective

With all the options available today for business communications, it's important to select the most appropriate method. There are many factors to consider including convenience, effectiveness and how appropriate for the message that you want to communicate.

Let's look at examples of various types of communications that one might use in business, and how we might best apply these methods. Our goal is effective communications, and not any one type is best suited for all situations.

The following discusses examples of effective and ineffective communications in the business environment.

Business Communications - the memorandum

In business, memorandums are used when we want to convey information in a formal written manner for official distribution. Since they are in hard copy, they are easier to keep to a limited distribution list.

One of the drawbacks of a memo is that it needs to be typed and printed, and this takes time. Well, not always, especially for memos that aren't intended for wide distribution. In these cases, hand written business communications can do just fine.

To document an employee resignation, I simply sat down at my desk and printed out a memo detailing the incident and noted my actions for the file. I sent the memo to our main office and they responded by calling to ask if I was going to have it typed up.

I confirmed that they could read it, and then informed them that it was fine as is. It did the job it needed to do, and it was entirely legible, so I intended to leave it just like that.

This is an example of simplified business communications. My focus was on being effective, instead of being pretty. It didn't need to be typed or perfectly crafted because it wasn't for wide distribution.

Business Communications - the chat

In these days of E-mail, I've seen people send an electronic message to someone sitting in the next office, when a simple 2 minute chat would have done the same thing, even better, in less time.

My rule is relatively simple. If I can conveniently have a face-to-face with someone, I'd much rather do that. It gets people together and builds rapport. It obviates sending E-mails when nothing needs to be documented. And, it gives you an opportunity to get off your chair and out of your office for a few minutes.

When business communications can be informal and only require a few minutes, a chat in someone's office can be much more appealing than any other form.

Business Communications - the E-mail and text message

The use of E-mail can serve you well. It's effective communications under the right circumstances. It's annoying as all hell under the wrong circumstances.

E-mails are effective business communications when something needs to be documented. If you have a list of questions, a list of things that need to be addressed, or an argument that you want the recipient to be able to review, an E-mail can be appropriate.

Think of a letter. If it would be effective communications in the form of a letter, then it's probably a good candidate for E-mail.

I've had people send me E-mails to ask questions or give instructions. That's fine if the instructions or questions are easy to answer or follow, and there's no complexities or potential for misunderstanding. When there is the opportunity for misunderstanding or the need for an exchange, then E-mail is inappropriate and can be quite aggravating.

If you know the person is sitting in their office right next to the phone, just give them a call to discuss things that are likely to get complex. I know it's an old fashion technology, but it works great.

Business Communications - the telephone

With E-mails and text messaging, the telephone is almost a thing of the past - especially the one that sits on your desk. We're busy sending text messages like the phone doesn't work anymore.

Let's not forget the tried and true telephone that has served us well ever since the days of the two piece phone where you had to crank up the ringer and ask the operator to connect you. And, don't forget those "party lines" with neighbors.

Yes, telephones as late as the 1960s used to be shared with another neighbor.

Anytime you have business communications that must be done remotely and they require an exchange of ideas or discussion of issues, or they have the potential for confusion with respect to instructions or your tone of voice, then the telephone is probably your best bet.

It's an art to write something so that no one can misunderstand it, so the phone helps minimize that problem. If clarity of instructions and brief but important exchanges of information are of importance to you, then the phone is your best approach.

The phone also allows you the ability to use voice mail, call forwarding, three-way calling, remote message retrieval and setting up conference calls, so it has some built in power that other forms of communication just don't have.

For effective communications, the telephone can support many of your small business ideas and initiatives, so don't overlook the telephone just because we have more "sexy" things like text messaging.

Wrapping it Up

There are business communications that should be spoken, written, printed or recorded. Sometimes the tone of the message is important. Sometimes body language is important. And, many times all of the above are important.

Don't get stuck in one way of communicating, just because it's easy for you. Think of how effective it might be, and how convenient it might be for your customer. These are the most important aspects of any communication.

Know when to write, speak, type and wave your arms around. Communications is more than just the raw message, it's also the manner and nature of delivery.

Done with Business Communications, take me back to Small Business Advice

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