Chapter Corner

The 5 New Rules of Face-To-Face Communication

Posted in: Features, September/October 2014

5-New-Rules.gifHave you ever had this internal conversation: Why meet when you can call? Why call when you can e-mail? Why e-mail when you can text? Why text when you can tweet?

I have this internal conversation daily.

For many Millennials (myself included), the art of face-to-face communication seems archaic and outdated since we can shoot off a text or tweet in a few finger flicks or can connect with a team instantly via Google+ Hangouts. However, face-to-face communication is alive and well; if used correctly it can make you stand out in today’s crowded talent pool.

Never in history have we had more competing for our attention. Today we must be intentional about our offline engagements to ensure our ideas stick, our messages connect, and our aspirations are understood.

In my studies, different generations have varying communication preferences. Younger generations prefer high-tech while older generations prefer high-touch (face-to-face communication). Many of today’s hiring managers and decision makers are seasoned leaders who still prefer to connect face-to-face before making decisions. Give yourself the best shot to succeed by harnessing both high-tech and high-touch communication.

Many Millennials already have mastered the high-tech communications of texting, e-mail, and social media, but they lack many of the basics of face-to-face communication. I get feedback all the time that Millennials miss opportunities for promotions or closing the deal due to their lack of offline connection. I urge to you become a double threat, someone who can connect quickly online AND can connect genuinely offline. (For those older generations reading, the pendulum swings both ways, and you need to stretch yourselves to become more agile in your high-tech communication abilities but that’s another article.)

Face-to-face communication can take a multitude of forms such as one-on-one meetings, team meetings, conferences, parties, impromptu connections, live speeches, etc. Each situation has its own ripe opportunity to make an impression and solidify a connection. It’s my goal to elevate your influence by equipping you with the five new rules of face-to-face communication. These rules apply whether you are receiving or delivering the offline communication.

1) Be prepared.

Face-to-face communication deserves forethought. Every communication (whether offline or online) has a purpose. Spend time before the face-to-face communication to gather your thoughts and establish the purpose and desired outcome. I’d recommend using the application Evernote to capture any necessary information before, during, and after the communication. If you use your smartphone to take notes, inform the individual so that they don’t mistake you for rudely texting during the conversation.

2) Be present.

Face-to-face communication deserves full attention. Much like when we drive a car, if we allow our mobile devices to distract us, the likelihood of veering off course increases dramatically. Stay focused.

Effective preparedness and intentional note taking will help you stay on track. Establish strong eye contact. Resist the urge to multi-task. Schedule your face-to-face communications and be sure to get caught up on your e-mail, texts, and social media updates to ensure you’re clear minded. Silence your phone (because whoever actually turns off their phone?) and do not check it unless you are expecting an urgent message at which point communicate the urgent need up front before conversing.

3) Be attentive.

Face-to-face communication deserves full participation. Great conversation is like a tennis match. One person serves up their thoughts and the other reciprocates, back and forth, back and forth. But in order to successfully hit the ball over the net, you must be paying close attention to every detail of the communicator’s words, body language, and tone of voice. Add to the dialogue with relevant questions, stories, analogies, thoughts, and/or facts.

4) Be concise.

Face-to-face communication deserves brevity. These days everyone has more than they can handle so be respectful and keep your communication succinct. Building rapport with small talk can be helpful but limit it to less than five minutes. Put a time limit on the conversation so you both can stay on point. If you’re prepared, you’ll be able to communicate confidently and clearly. Those who you are communicating with will appreciate your focus and clarity.

5) Be consistent.

Face-to-face communication deserves the real you. Social media has allowed individuals to create online personal brands that allow others to gain context around who you are as a person. Many people will search you online to then size you up offline. Make sure your online brand or presence communicates who you truly are. If there is a discrepancy, the face-to-face communication could be clouded with doubt and superficiality, and all connection will be lost.

Time will tell how new technology such as augmented reality or holograms will alter how we communicate face-to-face in the future; but as for today, face-to-face communication works and resonates with many of today’s leaders. Arm yourself with these five new rules today and become the double threat needed to thrive tomorrow.

Ryan Jenkins is an internationally recognized Millennial speaker and author who equips his online and offline audiences to leverage next generation tools, trends, and talent to thrive in tomorrow’s multi-generational marketplace. Access his blog and podcast for free weekly next generation insights at www.ryan-jenkins.com.