This is the fifth post in a new series in which we explore a variety of essential skills for using digital, social, and visual media. We’ll present the information in ways that you can share directly with your students, and we hope this information will enhance your lectures and class discussions.
Technology brings a wide variety of potential benefits to business communication, which can be grouped into five key areas:
- Making communication more effective by helping people craft messages that convey their ideas more clearly and persuasively
- Making communication more efficient by reducing the time and effort needed to create, transmit, and consume messages
- Improving research to help communicators discover, process, and apply information
- Assisting communicators with decision-making by guiding them through complex sets of data
- Removing communication barriers so more people can participate in the communication process more easily
You probably take advantage of many benefits provided by communication technology already, from spell checkers to search engines to a voice-input virtual assistant on a smartphone. While technology can help communicators in some powerful ways, these benefits don’t come automatically. When tools are designed poorly or used inappropriately, they can hinder communication more than help.
To use communication technology effectively, bear the following five points in mind.
Keep Technology in Perspective
Any technology is simply a tool, a means by which you can accomplish certain tasks. Technology is an aid to communication, not a replacement for it. Moreover, it can get in the way if not used thoughtfully. Keeping your focus on your messages and your audiences will help ensure you use technology to enhance the communication process without overwhelming it.
Guard Against Information Overload
The overuse or misuse of communication technology can lead to information overload, in which people receive more information than they can effectively process. Information overload can cause distractions, stress, mistakes, and communication breakdowns, and minimizing it is a shared responsibility.
As a receiver, be your own gatekeeper and stay mindful of what information you allow in. Periodically “prune” your information channels to avoid material you no longer need, and use filtering features in your systems to isolate high-priority messages that deserve your attention.
As a sender, make sure you don’t send unnecessary messages or poorly crafted messages that require multiple rounds of clarification.
Use Your Tools Wisely
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other communication technologies are key parts of what has been called the information technology paradox, in which information tools can waste as much time as they save. In addition to distracting employees from work responsibilities, inappropriate use can also leave companies vulnerable to lawsuits and security breaches.
Use Your Tools Efficiently
Knowing how to use your tools efficiently can make a big difference in your productivity. You don’t have to become an expert in most cases, but you do need to be familiar with the basic features and functions of the tools you are expected to use on the job. As a manager, make sure your employees are trained to use the systems you expect them to use.
Reconnect in Person When You Can
Even when it is working well, communication technology can still present barriers to understanding and healthy emotional connections. Messaging, email, and other text-heavy modes are particularly prone to misunderstandings and bruised feelings because they can’t convey nuances and emotions the same way that voice, video, and in-person conversation can.
Whenever you sense that you’re stuck in a loop of confusion or negativity, pick up the phone or visit the other party in person if you can. A few minutes of direct conversation can often work wonders.
Adapted from Courtland L. Bovée and John V. Thill, Business Communication Today, 15th Edition, 2021, pp. 16–17. This topic is also addressed in our titles Excellence in Business Communication, Chapter 1, and Business Communication Essentials, Chapter 1.