View from the 40th Floor: The Technology Multiplier

(Part 2 of a series by Bert Decker)

When Decker started 40 years ago Mark Zuckerberg wasn’t alive, the Mac hadn’t been introduced, and gas was 88¢ a gallon. Social media – what was that? We were one of the first communication companies to use video for coaching feedback, but it was with big and bulky VHS tapes since technology was in its infancy.

One thing that hasn’t changed? The power and personal impact of face-to-face communications. But now it often comes with the magnification and distraction of technology. High touch is even more important in this age of high tech. Because our human, in-person connections are much less frequent, they need to be much stronger. This is a big subject – so let’s narrow it down on this blog to smartphones, online meetings and YouTube’s impact on social media.

Phones Dominate Today
No news there, but think of a few key things:

  • Eye communication – When you glance down at your phone instead of the person or group you’re with, there’s no eye contact – giving short shrift to the #1 behavioral connector in our human communicating. It comes across as if you’re rejecting your audience. Use phones well, and sparingly, when you’re with people.
  • FaceTime When you’re video chatting, your eye communication is continuous and thus more intense – that’s a good thing. Get better at it. In-person you might be perceived as staring if you don’t glance away now and then, but not on FaceTime. And your smile (or lack thereof) is more noticeable. So make sure you express as you want to be perceived, and I’ll assume that’s with a smile and open face…

Online meetings have mushroomed (and rightfully so).
Forty years ago, meetings were all face-to-face. Today, apps like Zoom, Skype and Bluejeans come with major benefits but are only as effective as the user. In fact, how you come across is even more critical in online meetings than in face-to-face meetings, for a few reasons:

  • People see you closeup – When your face is on a screen, others catch the nuances of your expression (smiles, particularly) often better than when you’re in a roomful of people. Watch what you do when you’re not “on” because, in virtual meetings, you always are. You may not be talking, but people are looking.
  • It’s harder to dominate – In-person meetings are easier for interrupters to lean forward and interject. In online meetings, you can’t see the visual cues as much, and so the vocal and visual cues have to be more overt. It’s not necessarily bad to interrupt, but you have to be more direct in a technological setting. (Signaling with your mute/unmute button won’t work too well in a busy, energetic online meeting.) Know how to use the cues in the new setting.
  • Energy is important – You don’t have your body to express your enthusiasm and conviction, so both the visual and the vocal have to be more highly charged to be effective. A soft voice is a disadvantage, and facial expressions are magnified. Increase your vocal volume and smile, so your energy comes through.
  • Watch your background Set your stage. Make sure you have good lighting – brighter is better. And what’s behind you? Blank walls are OK, but windows with people going by are not. Can you have some books, or awards or such to add to your message? But keep it simple – settings communicate.

YouTube and the world of constant video
YouTube has revolutionized video to be a new and important means of personal communicating (and it’s become the primary tool for social media.) If you have a phone, you’re a videographer. But to leverage this medium, you have to be good in front of the camera, too. Here’s how:

  • Same rules apply For both personal and business persuasion, it’s your face, look and behavior that will very much determine your impact. (See details and references above – and on most of our blogs for that matter.) The emotional impact will be much greater than in the print medium because that’s the nature of the film (video) medium.
  • Business executives can no longer work only in offices and come out at meetings and conventions like they could 40 years ago. Execs are expected to deliver messages more often than before because today’s technology makes them so accessible. Many execs may not want to use YouTube (and be on video for that matter) but with today’s social media presence they have to – and they have to be good on camera to succeed.

One final point: With today’s constant communicating through technology it is even more important that your message—in any medium—have a strong Point-of-View and be short and sweet. (See the Decker Grid™). Attention spans have plummeted!

So these are just a few thoughts on how communicating with technology has changed – mostly for the better. What other ways has technology impacted how you communicate?

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