Bob Parkinson has served as a program host, writer, and producer of radio and several television shows for CBS, NBC, and other corporate clients. He has conducted more than 1,900 communication programs for business, government, and academia. In addition to publishing 12 business communication books, Bob's column, Show and Tell, appears every Saturday in the business section of the Sarasota Herald Tribune. Bob served on the faculty of Northwestern University. He received his PhD from Syracuse University and his masters in management from Montclair State University. Bob, again, welcome to Been There, Done That.
Bob, what are effective communications?
What are effective communications? Basically, it's making sure that the audience gets the message that you intended to give them. By that I mean we've got a lot of ideas and a lot of ways that we can deliver the information, but the real key factor is what's in it for the audience? One of the keystone comments that we make is when you deliver a presentation, become your audience. When you're writing a piece, become your reader. That way it will direct you in selecting the right kind of commentary, the right kind of vocabulary, the right kind of examples. Otherwise what you're doing is writing or speaking for your own convenience rather than for the benefit of the person that's receiving the message. You begin with who's getting it.
There's so much communication today in the workplace and personally with e-mails. Let's talk about that for a moment. What constitutes a well written or a poorly written e-mail?
It's well written if the audience gets the message that you intended it to be, just as I said a moment ago. What happens very often is people use it as a catharsis. They just write something quickly without giving it a great deal of thought, without structuring the information, and they think, well, this is what I want to say. Back to my comment of a moment ago, what you have to put in is not what you want to say, it's what the audience needs to hear. You switch the emphasis rather than from delivery, which is convenient for you, to reception, which is beneficial to the recipient. When you have the recipient in mind, regardless of what your medium is, chances are much better that you're going to make the message clear and you'll get the kind of results that you're looking for.
E-mail is a different medium than say face-to-face or telephone communications. Can you talk about how you have to adapt if you're writing e-mail and what the differences are?
The big difference between the e-mails and telephone for example is when you put it on an e-mail there's no emphasis, there's no pausing, there's no increasing of volume or decreasing of volume. It's just funny marks on a piece of paper or on a computer screen. You may intend something to be very clear but depending upon when the audience gets it, when the reader gets it, he or she may interpret it to be quite different. The packaging is completely different. For example Fred, a lot of people like to write in upper case letters so they type everything in upper case letters. Most people when they get an upper case letter e-mail it sounds like they're shouting or they're being shouted at. Don't do that. It's so simple. I don't know anybody who's that busy that he can't hit a shift key on a keyboard to go from upper case to lower case. I was in a coaching session a while back and somebody asked a question about upper case. I said essentially what I said just now, but then I said, "Why did you ask?" They said, "Well, Charlie over here," who's everybody's boss, "Charlie does it all the time." They used me as a vehicle to say to Charlie, "Don't do that any more," because he was shouting at them. Very bad idea. We're dealing with content, but we're dealing with packaging and delivery whether it's e-mail or snail mail or face-to-face like this. We have to be sure that the way we construct and deliver the messages is going to be appropriate and accurate and on the mark for the person getting it.
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