Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Beam Me Up...Please? I Really Mean It!

When you were younger, maybe you played the game of "telephone" like I did, when someone whispered a phrase in their neighbor's ear, which was then repeated in whispers to a circle of people, so that the last person left said out loud what the remaining message had translated to. I'm sure you remember that the outcome of the message almost never had anything at all to do with the original message. The difference between the original message and the final one was often quite comical - laugh out loud funny, as I recall, and this was often the point. It was entertainment. 
In real life, however, when your message gets distorted, or even lost, it's not a good thing. Our recent presidential election highlights the importance of sticking to a message consistently in order to get the desired result. We use all the communication tools available to us -- blogs, newsletter, social networks,  to get our message out. And yet with all the emphasis on technology today, we tend to lose sight of the importance of direct, in person, communication, and we are startled at the number of miscommunications that occur live, not to mention e-mail, video, or anything else. 

The truth is, technology doesn't mean anything without the people to back it up. In business, people drive the technology, and the business owner needs to not only get out their message effectively and accurately to potential clients, but they must listen closely to what clients need and want in order to take relevant action, whether it be a proposal, finding resource information, starting on a new project, etc. 

Consequently, the client needs to communicate clearly what their needs and goals are, and they need to give careful consideration of these factors on their own before even meeting with the consultant. When an actual meeting takes place and the client flip flops on what they want, it only creates confusion, unless there is a strong coaching element to the job and the client is encouraged to entertain multiple scenarios. 

Here are some helpful tips to avoiding miscommunications, for both the client and business owner:
1. Take notes during your initial meeting, and before the meeting ends, go over the notes together to make sure they are accurate. Be sure the notes include: time frame, deadlines, persons involved, deliverables expected, fees and costs, and any other further comments and follow up. 
2. The consultant should send a follow up e-mail highlighting the main points of the meeting and future action to be taken. The client should sign off on this memo.
3. Before embarking on a large project, the consultant should send a sample, or excerpt of the project in its draft stages so the client as a sense of where the project is going and can make adjustments accordingly. 
4. If the consultant encounters any unexpected obstacles or challenges, they should notify the client immediately. Usually, these challenges can be met effectively once they are defined. 

Let me know if you have any useful client/consultant tips. And in the meantime...no need to whisper. 

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