Have you ever thought about how many emails and texts you send each day, or how those messages impact your influence? Each one is an opportunity to stand out from the crowd and grow your influence. Each one is also an opportunity to be misinterpreted, to damage your reputation and to negate your influence.
Technology has affected almost every aspect of our professional and personal lives, including our ability to influence others. Technology, however, is a double-edged sword when it comes to influence. While technology makes communicating easier, it is much more difficult for us to influence others.
We live in a world of “noise” where we are always on and always connected. This fast-paced environment causes us to overlook the importance of influence. We don’t stop to think about how we “show up” or how our communication will be received. Messages at the bottom of emails sent via smartphones asking recipients for forgiveness of spelling errors are solid proof. It’s easier and faster to ask forgiveness than to check ourselves before we hit send.
Recent statistics indicate that 89 billion business emails are sent worldwide each day. According to The Radicati Group, the average corporate email user sends and receives between 105 and 125 email messages per day. That is an astounding number, which doesn’t even include text messages. A report by HeyWire Business found that 67 percent of business professionals use text messaging for business-related communication. Of those professionals, 72 percent text with internal co-workers and 51 percent text with external contacts, such as customers, prospects and vendors. More than 33 percent of sales professionals say they have closed a business deal via text. The report concluded, “Business has stopped talking and started texting.”
When it comes to influence, every single interaction — including virtual ones — matters. Every presentation, conversation, impromptu meeting, email, text, post or phone call is a representation of who you are and directly determines how others experience you. Every interaction is a representation of your “voice” and personal brand and establishes your reputation. Every interaction either enhances or detracts from your influence.
Technology makes it more difficult to influence, because you can’t influence your listeners if they’re not paying attention. I bet you can relate to this example: You’ve been preparing for weeks for a critical meeting. You’ve done the research, identified what is important to your listeners and have even spent time practicing your message and delivery.The day of the meeting, you’re confident your listeners will take action on your recommendations. As you begin to share your message, you look up to a room full of people on their electronic devices, heads bowed in the “smartphone prayer.”
HeyWire Business reports that 97 percentof text messages are read within three minutes of delivery. This suggests that the people in your audience will likely check their devices at least once, if not multiple times, during your presentation. HeyWire Business also found that 59 percent of peopleuse their personal mobiledevicefrequently for business communications. There is a strong possibility that your listeners will receive emails and texts from customers, colleagues, team members, their significant other, and perhaps Amazon confirming their order, while you’re trying to have influence on them. How many of those incoming messages will result in multiple-message conversations?
When you deliver that critical message you’ve worked so hard on, will you have your listeners’ full attention? What is the likelihood they will all act on your recommendations?
You can try to eliminate digital noise by banning all electronic devices. (Good luck with that one!) Yet you will never be able to remove all distractions. Break through the many distractions we take on daily, be heard, understood and able to influence by taking these 4 steps:
4 steps to be heard over technical gadgets
1. Pause. The silence will grab the offenders’ attention and bring it back to you and your message.
2. Look individuals in the eye. When speaking, look directly at an individual for a complete sentence or thought. That’s something most presenters don’t do. Your audience will immediately sense that you are connecting with them. If they know you will catch them not paying attention, they will be less likely to get sucked into their technical gadgets.
3. Take control. At the beginning, state with confidence, “In order to honor everyone’s time and receive the value you expect from our time together, please close and silence your phones, tablets and laptops. This will also allow us to end on time.”
4. Be interesting. Boring communicators don’t grab and keep listeners’ attention. The audience will zone out when you read from your slides, especially when they’re filled to capacity with charts, graphs and unreadable fonts. No one wants to be read to. Make a real connection with your listeners by communicating with passion and authenticity.
If you don’t have people’s attention, you can’t influence them. In the battle for your listeners’ and readers’ attention, only one thing is going to win. Will it be you and your message or their constantly chirping devices? If you are not more engaging and compelling than the digital distraction of the moment, you and your message will lose every time.