Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Meeting Face to Face

Yesterday I had the pleasure of working on-site with a client for the day.

This is a group I've been working very closely with for the past year. Although I talk to many of these people on an almost daily basis, I had never met most of them in person before. Nevertheless, their voices are deeply etched in my brain, and I could have picked any of them out of a lineup if we were going by voice and not visual.

When you don't meet someone in person, you still paint a picture of them in your mind.

So yesterday, I got to meet these people and see their real faces -- not my made up ones. The universe has shifted slightly as I've adjusted my images. It was a bit disconcerting at first. I had to keep staring at each of them hard as I replaced my old pictures. More hair. Younger. Older. Unexpected beards.

The bonus of so many of the social media tools we use is that our pictures are attached. It's nice to know who you're really talking to.

This is me, in case you were wondering:

I still haven't bothered trying to figure out how to change my blogger image from that damn apple!


Anonymous said...

With all the research behind online social learning environments and the impact it has on the learner (which I agree with and promote), I always feel that one major piece is still being overlooked and still isn't hasn't become a big part of online learning communities... Non-Verbal Communication and/or Body Language.

Research ranges the percent of non-verbal communication you use to communicate (willingly or unwillingly) from 55% to 93%! I agree to the higher end of that range, and if so, then is that the percent of communication lost in online learning communities. Or is it substituted by other tools (how effective?)(web cam or emoticons)?

I feel that great teachers are great communicators. But not only is it the way they can express themselves (non-verbally and verbally) and communicate outward, but being able to "read" their class and have a sense of who's paying attention.. who's having a hard time understanding (from non-verbal clues) and then being able to adjust their instruction immediately.

For example.. If I notice I'm losing someone's attention in class, I'll instantly make direct eye-contact, maybe raise an eyebrow, and start talking directly to that student, and most of the time... you get their attention again.

How simple and effective is that eyebrow raise? What is it saying to the student? ha

Do we undervalue non-verbal communication? In what ways can non-verbal communication be substituted online? And how effective is that substitution?

Eric W said...

Interesting Post.

For several online classes I’ve had to take, we have a professor who requires us to post a information page with an picture to let everyone know what we all look like and we present them during the class. I’ve had some interesting shocks from the people in the class; one person in the class was 32 but looked and sounded like she was 23. It’s interesting what our minds build up without seeing the people.

Cammy Bean said...

Pete and Eric, thanks for the comments.

I don't do any online teaching at the moment, but I do a lot of online collaboration on projects -- reviewing content with SMEs, going over storyboards, etc.

I think I overcompensate with the lack of non-verbal communication by hamming it up. If I can get everyone laughing, than I believe we're more connected. (This is not something I do consciously, I realize). I'm the same when teaching face-to-face -- big user of the laugh to create connection.

Vijay Vukkalam said...

Since the advent of high speed internet our life-style has changed tremendously, from shopping to business. Since the past decade there has been increase in outsourcing of jobs to different off-shore locations. This initiated the use of online medium like teleconferencing as well as video conferencing to meet client overseas.
Of late almost all the transaction has gone online, thanks to present economic conditions.
I consider my self a rookie in the online environment, even though i did not like it initially, most scary part was difficulty to get the initial reaction of the people in the group if they don't like my thoughts or input as i can't see their face and read their expressions.
After taking three online classes and working on a online project with my group members and client scattered across the country, even one of the group members located in Canada we were able to meet on time were right on target with the team progress not missing the project milestones. Even difference in time did not cause a problem or hiccups thanks to the technology and group. I felt this medium was very time effective bearing good results.
I don't say that everything with this approach is great, it has some problems. But this would give more time with family and friends.

Iida said...

I have experience with several different means of “virtual” communication and I think it’s crucial to be able to connect a face with a name and voice. Having participated in many online classes it is always nice to know who the group members and class mates are and what they look like. This lowers the hesitation for communication as you feel like you can form a personal connection with a face rather than just a name on the roster. The practice of posting an image with an introduction used by Eric’s (one of the previous comments…) instructor is a wonderful approach.

Same goes when dealing with clients and colleagues. Video conferences and calls offer a great way to reseal some of the interpersonal gap created by the elimination of the face-to-face contact. There are many VoIP tools that allow sending video as well as audio. So, getting a good web camera can help in putting the all the pieces of the “voice, face, name” –puzzle together!

Cammy Bean said...

It does seem like the picture/video thing was wedded early on to the virtual classroom. Business, in many ways, has been slower to adopt.

In the "old" days, we always had in person kickoff meetings with clients, where that initial bond was forged.

Now that everyone's saving money in the business world and going virtual, the f2f is gone. But those webcams and other tools aren't yet in place.

So maybe I should just start attaching my picture to my emails...how old school it is.