educational

Business Communication

Kevin Kraft
Communication is the most important element in today's society. Every time we interact with another person we communicate, most of the time without even thinking about it. Bad communication causes families to break up, wars to start, and business deals to go bad, to name just a few examples. On the flip-side, good communication can move mountains.

This article is geared towards communication within organizations. There would be no organization within an organization without communication; it really is the centerpiece that brings it all together. Everybody needs to communicate; no exceptions. It is all around us, from the time when we enter the office until the time we go home. What would a project manager do if he couldn't communicate? What work would a designer or a programmer do if they couldn't communicate?

All right, it should be pretty clear by now; communication is important in our professional lives. The better and more efficient the communication, the quicker a company can adapt to market changes and bring new products to the market. Within this article I will touch on four basic forms of communication in today's businesses: telecommunication, instant messaging, e-mails, and meetings.

Telecommunication
During the 1870s, two inventors, Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray, both independently designed devices that could transmit speech electrically: the telephone. From this point on telecommunication grew rapidly into one of the most popular forms of communication. Although it may seem logical to just pick up the phone and call somebody to discuss a project, for example, doing this has a large number of disadvantages. Most phone calls are not scheduled and are likely to interrupt the person being called. Not only could it cause somebody to lose his or her concentration, but additionally it is not possible to share the contents of a phone conversation with others… at least not easily. It is nearly impossible to remember all of the details of a longer phone conversation without taking notes, and who likes taking notes? Who can take notes and focus on what the other person is saying? How good will those notes be?

Although phone conversations have a lot of downside to them, they also have some advantages. For one, they can get you an answer very quickly. You do not need an Internet connection. And mobile pones make it possible to call or be called from almost anywhere in the world at any time. Phone calls also have a personal touch to them.

Instant Messaging
Who doesn't have at least one of those numerous instant messengers? Since the birth of instant messenger applications and devices, they have grown in popularity at an unbelievable speed, much faster than telecommunication has grown over the same period. Although the use of an instant messenger may seem less personal than a phone call or face-to-face meeting, and you can't take advantage of this method of communication unless you have one of those fancy smart phones, it comes with a wide peerage of advantages. Conversations can be logged, making it possible to review conversations. Whoever is in the conversation can copy and paste pieces of text quickly. The ability to have a group of people in on a conversation makes it possible to hold virtual meetings without the need of participants to be at the same location. Not only can you share text messages instantly with others, but you can also share files such as important text documents. The list of advantages is seemingly endless. As new technologies evolve and existing technologies advance, instant messenger services will become more popular. Take the webcam technology for example; almost every instant messenger can utilize this technology.

Email
Here comes the mother of digital business communication: e-mail. E-mail addresses as we see them today were first introduced in 1984; since then the use of e-mail has grown to be a very powerful communication method - not only in the world of business, but also in our personal lives. Questions can be addressed in great detail. If need be they can be forwarded or shared with a group of people. Documents can be attached, and just like instant messengers, text can be inserted or extracted quickly by using the copy and paste feature. An e-mail will never interrupt a person unless the person wants to be interrupted, and it is also a lot less likely that someone will forget to answer an e-mail than return a phone call. When was the last time you printed a phone conversation? It doesn't matter which way you turn it, e-mail is the king of business communications.

Face-to-Face Meetings
Having meetings is great when you want to discuss an idea, but unless you can keep things very organized, it isn't a very powerful "stand alone" way to communicate. It is excellent for announcements though, and even brainstorming. Meetings can be incredibly productive, but just as an organized meeting can be amazing, an unorganized meeting is a complete waste of time and can actually be counterproductive. If you like to have frequent meetings, make sure to have somebody take notes - somebody who is not involved in the discussion.

Final Thoughts
Communication should be a topic discussed frequently, including different ways to improve it and where the communication gaps are and where they might turn up. Special software packages are often used to make collaboration easier, but since most of the more advanced collaboration applications are fairly expensive, they are often not a justifiable purchase for smaller companies.

Great for internal communication is an online/intranet forum; it is affordable and easy to setup.

If you are looking for an alternative way to spread announcements, then put up a bulletin board around the office. Large corporations see people come and go on a daily basis, and even small companies have people come and go. This is one of the reasons why communications need to be documented; the new person can read through the history/logs and pick up where the others left off. Whenever there is a detailed communication history, it makes people accountable.

There really is no end to the communications topic; books have been written, seminars held… so be aware how important communication is and you've taken a giant step towards improving your business operations.

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