15 Essential Common Sense Communication Tips for Technologists

Mike Lynn has worked at a number of businesses ranging from very small to extremely large. he has the pleasure of doing business with some of the best and brightest minds in technology in the financial services industry. However, He is amazed on at some of the things I see on a regular basis. Whether your a manager or a single-contributor, I’m sure you can appreciate this refresher course in communication common sense.

Conversations with Clients

  1. Never answer an unqualified question. As technologists, we’re often called upon to provide additional information about the products we review or projects with which we are involved. NEVER ANSWER WITHOUT THINKING ABOUT THE QUESTION.
  2. Never commit to ANY additional work without thoroughly understanding your existing task list and the implications of the additional work.
    If you’re uncertain – defer and give a date for when you can supply an estimated delivery… a date for a date.
  3. Never answer if you’re uncertain. It’s not only ok – but admirable to say “I don’t know – but I’ll find out.”
  4. Know your audience. Recognize that we’re very technical people and we are sometimes invited to meetings with people of varying degrees of technical knowledge. When this is the case, be certain that you’re NOT dragging these folks into a technical ditch and thereby grinding the meeting to a halt. It sometimes helps to verbally check with meeting participants after an initial discussion to ensure that you’re all ok with the technical depth at which you are speaking.
  5. Respect other’s time. Always schedule time for conversations you feel may take more than a single sentence response. If you’ve called someone directly to save the time of typing an email or scheduling a meeting, consider that the person you’re calling may have other activities scheduled or in flight for this time slot.
  6. Understand your role. You are a technologist, responsible for providing solutions to technological problems. Never ask a client or partner to solve a problem for you unless the problem falls outside the realm of your responsibility.
  7. Never answer a question before you’re certain you’ve considered the implications of your response and the perspective of the person asking the question. I’m not telling you to ask a question for every question asked – but understand the perspective of the person asking the question and either a) ask a discovery question to clarify or b) tailor the answer to suit the asker’s perspective.

    Demonstrations to Clients

  8. NEVER stray from your script. Never perform an action for the first time in front of a client or in any demo. Never yield to a request from a demonstratee to introduce significant changes to the planned demonstration. If a person you’re demonstrating to wants more information that may take you from your script, politely note the request and tell them that you’ll be happy to schedule another time to get deeper or to do further investigation.
  9. When a demo breaks or a bug occurs (and it will!), don’t sweat it – be prepared with discussion notes in the event you need to reboot or reconfigure the environment. Don’t take it too lightly because after all – the time you’re taking to present it important. Have support ready at the back-end if at all possible – this can be in the form of a colleague who knows how to reset the demo environment.
  10. Include links to the webex or meeting collateral in the meeting request rather than distributing separately so that attendees don’t have to search through the mailbox to find it.
  11. When securing a room, secure the half-hour prior to the meeting to ensure that you have time to prepare… and remember if you’re using OUTLOOK and Exchange email to change the invitee type to RESOURCE OR ROOM to ensure that you secure the room’s availability.
  12. Prepare! Pre-load/pre-configure your environment. If you’re demonstrating several separate web pages, have them loaded in separate windows or tabs to avoid delays while loading. Prepare notes and practice the demonstration until you don’t need notes any longer.

    General Email Correspondence

  13. Enable Spell-check on emails. If it’s not turned on now – stop reading and do it now.
  14. Consider using reply instead of reply-all – not everyone on the cc list cares intimately about every detail.
  15. See 4. Understand your audience and tailor your written, as well as verbal communications to suit.

Visit the authors weblog at: http://blog.mlynn.org