Digital Dilemma: Has IT Killed Effective Communication Skills?

Communication Skills

It used to be good to talk… so why does nobody do it anymore? No banter. No more. In our house, a fairly typical family home, technology has killed the art of conversation. Family evenings usually involve four of us in the same room communicating… to everyone… using phone or tablet or laptop… in touch with everyone, except the folk in the same room.

No doubt this is a regular parental cry… but does it matter because we now inhabit the digital dimension. In a world straddling baby boomers and Generations X, Y and Z am I just out of touch or is there more to it?

Given that any list of famous baby boomers will include tech savvy people such as Jeff Bezos, there must be more to these feelings of frustration than just my age. I had my children in the mid-1990s, which was also a crucial time for technological advancement. So on returning from maternity leave I found a PC on my desk replacing my ink and quill.

People no longer popped over to my desk to ask me stuff, they put it in an email and were already learning to cc the rest of the world…JIC!!

I’m not as out of touch as I sound; I could see how things were changing and embraced the challenge. Now, though my keyboard skills could be quicker and I could be more proactive on social media platforms, I embrace technology to enhance my communication skills, not to replace it.

In my work, technology enables me to access all the information I need, to research topics and develop material that is current and topical. It allows me to play film or video clips and use images, which bring my training content to life. A picture really is worth a thousand words and these images allow me to save them up to challenge and debate, instead of having to explain and clarify.

60% of people on workshops will prefer to process information visually and technology enables me to appeal to them, and deliver interesting and involving training material at the touch of a button. Discover your preference.

In addition, while training, we are likely to remember only 50% of information if we can see and hear the subject being discussed. This figure rockets to 90% we can experience what we are training to do, by doing it. Technology can provides some great activities and simulations, to help people to learn through hands-on training. This maximises learning and retention.

If we want our audience to engage, we tell them a story or relate an experience to show relevance and bring the facts to life. Technology helps considerably here by providing me with a rich seam of examples. However, I feel that the best ones are always my own, personal experiences. Typically these involving little technology and are more concerned with face-to-face communication I have encountered with others.

Add to the mix the fact that people have preferences around how they are communicated to, for example, big picture vs detail, in order to be effective communicators we have a lot of factors to consider. For more on how to communicate effectively with different personality types.

We have all experienced too many presenters and trainers who use technology as a substitute for effective personal delivery. The days of elaborate and over-long Powerpoint presentations, with far too many slides are hopefully behind us. They were only ever there to communicate images and summaries, which support the key messages we are sending, and they should never be used as a script for the presenter.

Why would a trainer ever simply read out the content of a slide that the audience is quite capable of reading and digesting independently? Our audience expects us to have prioritised the information; this is a key part of the role we perform, as well as facilitating clear and engaging access to it. Overuse of animation and transitions particularly if accompanied by sound, serve only to irritate and distract.

Effective communication is still about your ability to decide the best medium to use, given the outcome you want to achieve, the message you want to send and the person or people on the receiving end and the confidence with which you deliver that message.

Technology gives us communication options, which within our global markets, diverse cultures and emphasis on cost saving and environmental impact, is a good thing. How we use it is the key to success and principles of effective communication apply whatever medium we select.

SHARETweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestDigg thisShare on RedditShare on TumblrShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone

Karthik Krishnan

The passion for technology has never failed to fascinate in every stage of Karthik’s life and it continues. The interest is not just in what it can do for Karthik, instead of how he can contribute to the changing society. Starting from a young age, he has always been interested in technology.

  • It is much more informative and thought provoking of how digital world has changed our communication. A nice article on digital dilemma.