This past weekend my two siblings who live overseas (London and Mozambique) came home to visit with my Dad who has been having numerous medical issues. He has a long road ahead of him and is now at Bryn Mawr Rehab regaining his strength via four hours of therapy a day. Having all five children around has definitely rallied his spirits as well as our own. Before they arrived in Philadelphia, and we were scattered over three different continents, it had been difficult to keep everyone informed and up-to-date.
When my sister mentioned we can talk to her in Africa for free via the computer, as well as have free conference calls with all five siblings and our step-mother, I knew my pseudo-technophobic ways were about to be challenged. It's not that I dislike technology. Rather, it's the installation and reading of the manuals that bog me down. I believe that if a product needs directions, it's poorly designed. But, if someone else is willing to do the background work, I am a very good audience when they demonstrate the basics (and ONLY the basics, thank you).
Nancy (said sister) installed something called Skype on my computer yesterday. She showed me what to click to contact her husband, Matt, in Mozambique. We typed back and forth with him for a few minutes and then signed off. After visiting with Dad today, Nancy will buy a microphone (and install it) so the instant messages can turn into actual talking.
This morning, still in my exercise bra/clothing, while sipping tea and reading my email, the computer beeped, a screen popped up, and then Matt was talking to me from Africa. My first thought was, thank goodness there isn't video. Then I did everything my sister showed me and, for the life of me, I couldn't figure out how to reply to him. He kept talking at me, and I kept clicking anything and everything as my frustration mounted. Finally I managed to type back the following:
I could hear him quietly read this out loud and then burst into a thunder of laughter, realizing how very true it was. Although the sound of a belly laugh is always a wonderful thing, one-sided conversations are definitely not. This holds true for business as well as family.
The next time I speak with a client or a prospect, create an ad or a sales letter, or attend a networking event, I will keep this in mind. I will not come from a place of talking at an audience, instead I will engage them, find out what they need, and explore how we can go about solving it.
Working together and communicating are what make the world go round... whether it's five siblings talking over the computer to share in the care of their father, or a business owner and client coming up with creative solutions.
Ellen Fisher, Publisher and Computer Telephone TechnoPHILE firstname.lastname@example.org