Communication in a digital age: A quick guide for 'old timers'

Updated 10/14/2019 9:30 AM

In a land very long ago, we communicated without the internet. Even longer ago, we communicated without phones, faxes and had to speak face to face or put pen to paper, writing a letter (usually in cursive).

If you were an aristocrat, you could have your courier or homing pigeon send a message to your intended audience. Today, we have all sorts of choices in communication: phone, email, text, Facebook, LinkedIn and video conferencing to name just a few.


I can't tell you how many times that I speak with someone my age (let's just say over 40) who says, "I don't do social media" or "I don't think we need a website or Facebook page.," Ok, I guess, but you're missing the boat on some great communication opportunities.

Just like fashion, communication has evolved. If you're still fuzzy on how to communicate digitally, take a look at some facts: Millennials (born 1981-1996) have overtaken Baby Boomers as America's largest generation, with a predicted 81 million millennials in 2036, according to Pew Research Center. As millennials dominate the workforce, we need to have a communication makeover. Regardless of when you were born, we have to adapt to digital age communication preferences in order to remain relevant.

We're seeing the increase of less formal, more engaging communication between co-workers with platforms like Workplace by Facebook, Slack or Yammer. These apps are changing the way organizations communicate internally for several reasons:

• Instant messaging apps support quick communication and enables associates to reach out to each other without having the other's contact information.

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• These apps help us stay connected at the office or on the go with mobile devices.

• They enable companywide communication, by department, focus group or specific interest groups.

• Businesses can manage activity, monitor workplace activity and maximize performance.

If you are a born after 1981 this is probably old news. If you are born before 1981 the new tools and technology can be terrifying. Here are some suggestions and tips to help you manage your effective digital communication makeover:

• 24/7 Communication: Smartphones have made around the clock communication a reality and in sales, the early bird gets the proverbial worm. Nontraditional work schedules are becoming more common in business.

• Use Phone Calls Sparingly: Cell phones aren't used for phone calls anymore … much like sending a telegram after the introduction of the telephone. The biggest reason has to do with time and efficiency. Making a phone call interrupts one's day and is more time consuming than other forms of written communication. Landline phone usage will likely dwindle down and rarely used in years to come.


• Instant Gratification: We are at a turning point where consumers are demanding goods, services and information delivered anytime, anywhere. Take Amazon Prime Air for example -- packages delivered in 30 minutes with the use of drones! The testing has already begun in several international markets. This puts some added pressure on sales professionals to deliver their messages precisely at the time an inquiry is made, if not before.

• Keep It Brief; Limit Text: The focus is on getting the job done, quickly, accurately and effectively. Short and to the point to capture maximum attention. People are busy and sometimes only have time to review a few bullet points. Be sure to only use as much information as you need to convey a message.

•Be Interactive and Experiential, not Static: Remember, a picture is worth 1000 words: Use icons, images or video to communicate key value points. You've got about 8 seconds to capture attention, so make it count with colorful illustrations, multiracial figures representing both genders in casual clothing.

• Use Humor: Laughter can be the best medicine, especially if used correctly. Humor can increase your credibility as is it a clever way to show you're relaxed. Jokes (please no offensive jokes) can make you seem more confident or can change how people see you. If you're a soft-spoken introvert and you insert a dry, super-funny one liner, you can up your influence. Be careful, some topics are off limit: race, gender, age, national origin, politics and disabilities are not funny, regardless of your audience.

• Don't Worry, Email Won't Die: Email communication remains entrenched as a trusted form of communication among consumers, with over 205 billion emails a day. Email is still considered a primary mode of communication which will be slow to change. According to Adobe, email usage is expected to increase because of the adoption of smartphones. People are using email for storage and filing with its virtually limitless capacity.

Digital communication is behaving as it would be expected, given that a huge portion of the workforce don't remember a time without a phone or computer. Smart, savvy, hardworking "kids" are paving the way in revolutionizing the way we communicate. Organizations and employers have the obligation to understand and adopt this form of communication in order to engage and capture the attention of a newer, vital and growing segment of the workforce.

BTW, you can AMA and TBH if it's NSFW, NVM. Please go to FB and LMS. TY.

• For the past 8 years, Mary Sprow has been the director of sales for Topgolf Wood Dale, Naperville and now Topgolf Schaumburg. She brings 20+ years of hospitality experience and sales coaching to the Topgolf sales teams. A featured writer for the Daily Herald Business Ledger and, she enjoys teaching, training and connecting people with their needed resources. Sprow is also the proud parent of two millennial young men who helped her write the last line in this article.

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