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?

From the Boardroom to the Living Room

In a recent Leadership Presence for Women program, we were discussing the Decker Grid™ when a participant raised her hand. “Can I use this on my husband?” she asked. This question comes up a lot, and the answer is a resounding yes! While Decker’s main objective is to teach communication … Continue reading

Mr. Rogers in the Boardroom? You Bet!

The Boardroom was the U.S. Senate Committee Hearing in 1969 as Chairman John Pastore was investigating whether to pass a $20 million funding bill to PBS. And he was losing his patience as PBS was losing the verbal battle—until Mr. Rogers stepped in. You know him—Fred Rogers, PBS star and … Continue reading

The Price of Connection

How do you put a price or value on connection? On being present? Jay-Z is a genius and talent in music who is practically unequaled. As I watched him as a guest on David Letterman’s Netflix show, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, I was fascinated by the subject matter … Continue reading

Establishing Executive Presence

The phrase “executive presence” is not new, but it’s gaining traction. I heard it referenced in seven meetings with executives from seven different companies last week, alone. What does it mean? It’s a way to describe confidence. Not to be confused with arrogance, demonstrating executive presence means showing that we … Continue reading

Decline of Eye Contact – And How You Can Correct It

“Just look me in the eye already!” Now that’s a great title from today’s Wall Street Journal article and interview with Sue Shellenbarger. (Great exposure! At the end of the day, the eye contact piece was still ranked #1 in their “Popular Now.”) Here’s the feature. And if you want … Continue reading

Just Look Me in the Eye, Already!

“Holding eye contact works best for 7 to 10 seconds in a one-on-one conversation, and for 3 to 5 seconds in a group setting, says Ben Decker, chief executive officer of Decker Communications, a San Francisco-based training and consulting firm. Mr. Decker, whose company has been in business for 34 … Continue reading

What the End of Eye Contact Means for Your Career

“Eye contact is declining in both work and social settings, and it’s having a negative effect on our sense of emotional connection ability to influence or impress others. Work & Family columnist Sue Shellenbarger and Ben Decker, president and CEO of consulting and training firm Decker Communications, join Lunch Break … Continue reading

Shine on your next panel

Think of that ultimate dinner party – conversation (and libation) is flowing, ideas are stimulating, and everyone’s having a grand time. That’s the experience to create during your next panel (minus the drinking). Panel discussions are the perfect way to bring people of different backgrounds together to share their influence … Continue reading

Be here and now in the here and now.

Our relationships are in danger. With our colleagues, best friends, kids, significant others, bosses, and team members. All because we can no longer not multitask. And the people we talk to every day – whether at work or at home – know it. Multitasking is a myth. We’re talking here … Continue reading