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The Manager's Pocket Guide to E-Communication

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E-mail, voice mail, conference calls, and videoconferences have revolutionized communication. Companies are dependent on technology to link personnel across cities, states, and countries, especially as virtual teams become more a part of our business environment. Yet, companies rarely provide formal training on how to manage these resources. This book provides guidelines for communicating effectively through e-mail and voice mail, suggestions for getting the most out of your conference calls and videoconferences, and creative and practical suggestions for communicating with, building, and managing your virtual team.

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1. Communicating Effectively through E-Mail

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1. Communicating Effectively through E-Mail“Life is different: Where once Americans depended on the vagaries of the post office to communicate in personalized, written messages, now we send 2.2 billion e-mail messages a day, compared with just 293 million pieces of first-class mail” (U.S. News & World Report, March 22, 1999).

 In days past, we had the benefit of communicating face-to-face. Now, with businesses moving at e-speed and operating globally, we, more often than not, will not have the opportunity to meet most people with whom we communicate. And, most communication will not be through formal letters or memos. It will most likely be through e-mail.The people with whom we communicate could be a team member, our boss, our boss’s boss, the head of our company, or a client. It is extremely important that we communicate clearly.

Remember that the individuals receiving your e-mail will not have the benefit of hearing the tone in your voice or seeing your facial expressions, and may not be familiar with your communication style. Therefore, what they read is what they get . . . in black and white.  

2. Communicating Effectively through Voice Mail

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2. Communicating Effectively through Voice Mail

Like e-mail, most companies are also dependent on voice mail as a primary form of communication. Voice mail has become more critical as companies continue to go “global” and cross time zones. Voice mail enables you to send and receive messages remotely from any phone in the world at any time, crossing time zone barriers. Through a combination of e-mail and voice mail, an executive could go several days without talking voice-to-voice with anyone, yet still get the job done, and get it done quickly regardless of what time it is!

Voice mail is a more informal form of communication. Like e-mail communication, voice mail enables you to share details, brainstorm ideas, and express opinions. However, voice mail allows for a more personal, informal communication because the receiver hears your voice and specific tones.

Voice mail is similar to a telephone call (except that it’s a oneway conversation) in that it lets you offer explanations, offer analogies, and basically, just talk through something that might be difficult or confusing to put into written text. Voice mail can also offer a more immediate response because the individual might be travelling and not have access to his e-mail. And, it sometimes takes less effort for the person receiving your message to respond verbally than to write out a text response.

 

3. Getting the Most Out of Your Conference Calls (as a presenter or as a participant)

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3. Getting the Most

Out of Your Conference Calls

(as a presenter or as a participant)

More and more, an increasing number of companies are choosing conference calls over face-to-face meetings as a way of bringing people together from around the city or around the world while managing costs. An MCI survey found that, on average, a business professional spends “3 hours a day in meetings, and that face-to-face meetings can cost up to seven times more than meetings conducted through conferencing technology.”

Additionally, “according to analysts, about 27% of business meetings at present involve remote participants, up from just

7% ten years ago” (Chicago Tribune, 1998).

Conference calls are similar to meetings. In fact, conference calls are, in many ways, virtual meetings. Conference calls offer teams a way to maintain communication and keep their virtual teams productive. Conference calls are less expensive than meetings and provide an opportunity to communicate more information more informally than e-mail. A conference call allows everyone to ask questions, provide input, and openly discuss issues in realtime.

 

4. Videoconferences Are Really Just Virtual Meetings

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4. Videoconferences Are

Really Just Virtual Meetings

Videoconferencing began over ten years ago using expensive equipment with a lack of standards. However, since then, many of the equipment concerns have been addressed. In fact, a study conducted by Forward Concepts Co. in October 1998 forecasted

“that the worldwide videoconferencing equipment industry will grow at an annual rate of over 25% to over $2.7 billion by 2002.”

Do you remember when videoconferencing first came out? The concept was great. I don’t know about you, but personally, the technology side of it seemed much too complex and a bit scary.

While it is true that, since then, most of us have become more accepting of technology in general and “smarter” about how to use it (whether we wanted to or not), there are still some perception issues around videoconferencing.

Even though some analysts project significant growth in videoconferencing and improvements made to equipment have made videoconferencing easier to use and less expensive, information gathered from research resources proves contradictory. This leads me to believe that we still have a few years to go before all of us are sitting in front of our laptop conducting videoconferences when and where we wish. And, we might not want to do that.

 

5. E-Mail, Voice Mail, Conference Call, or Videoconference— Which One Should I Use for My Message?

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5. E-Mail, Voice Mail,

Conference Call, or

Videoconference—

Which One Should I Use for My Message?

Throughout this book, we’ve talked about the importance of sending your message using the appropriate vehicle (e-mail, voice mail, conference call, or videoconference). By now, you might be asking yourself, how will I know which vehicle to use to deliver my message? While the vehicle by which we communicate may not be as important as the need for communication, it is still important to consider.

This chapter provides guidelines that will help you determine the best answer for you. Remember, there is no right or wrong answer. These guidelines are provided to help you think through the issues you need to consider. In the end, you will need to decide what is best for you. If you are communicating a simple, informal message to co-workers, you probably don’t have to worry too much about whether or not you are using the correct vehicle to send your message. However, it becomes more important as you deal with complex, detailed messages and/or as you are communicating with various levels and groups within an organization.

 

6. It’s All in How You Use It

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CONCLUSION

6. It’s All in How You Use It

Although many of you might not think that these forms of communication are optimal, they are here to stay! Using the tools that we have (e-mail, voice mail, and conference calls) effectively is essential to the success of your career. Communication is critical in communicating with virtual teams and in building professional relationships. These communication tools can be used to link clients to project teams, project teams to project teams, individual to individual, team members within a virtual team, and on and on.

This chapter will focus on how we can use the tools that we have

(e-mail, voice mail, and conference calls) to communicate with virtual teams, work effectively from our home office, and build and manage solid professional relationships, even if those relationships must be managed across cities, states, or countries.

Communicating with Virtual Teams

Speaking of virtual teams . . . communicating effectively through these tools is essential to building and maintaining successful virtual teams. Virtual teams are becoming more and more a part of the workforce as companies become global and more professionals telecommute. Although this book is not focused on building virtual teams, all of the communication tools are essential in business today, and virtual teams are a key component of the business world today. Given that, and the fact that sometimes it helps to see tips and tools applied in real-life

 

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