David Ferrabee blogs today about how information and technology is commonly confused with communication. He is spot on.Communication defined involves interchange or transmission of ideas. So often when I talk to folks about what they want to say, they start with something like “I’ll use PowerPoint” or “We’ll create a SharePoint site”. It is very difficult to explain to folks that this is the last decision (how we’ll transmit the message) we need to make, not the first (what we want to transmit).I worked with a guy a few months ago, who after taking my course on how to develop a ‘training’ class for a technical audience, came back with his PowerPoint deck for me to approve. Since I had demoed about a dozen alternate ways to get a message across to a class (and PPT was NOT one of them!), I asked what else he considered and he responded that he just felt PowerPoint was the best way to get the message across. I suppose that could have been the case, but I really believe he just had not ever considered anything else (and probably was all he’d ever seen in his technology company). More likely, it’s just a case of not trying to be creative enough and really ascertain how the audience will learn.Been brainstorming with a friend on how to excel at web conferencing (LiveMeeting — side note: why are all the cool Microsoft tools the most abused communication methods?), which is not something I really like or excel at, but is nonetheless a very valid (and cost-effective) method for message deployment. He ran across a treasure trove of examples at http://main.livemeeting.com/demos/web_seminar_archive.cfm, which mainly are just marginal PowerPoint decks translated to web shows. I actually fell asleep while we tried to watch one (yes, it’s been a busy few weeks and I’m tired, but aren’t all our audiences filled with tired folks?).The principles of communication, especially Rule #1, are always in effect, and never more so than when technology steps in to the picture. We must meet our audience with a clear message that meets their needs, in a way they can remember and act upon.
Don’t let technology or a method be your message.