Embarking on a new professional adventure after graduation, I’ve been tasked to conduct 50 debriefs for my job training, with a global consulting firm , Link-up International. In these 50 one-hour meetings, not only am I training to ramp up on skills and strategy that my company’s product and service offers, I’m also refining many other skills. I have to focus on timing, tone, speech delivery, environment, and client engagement strategies. One skill I’m especially focusing on is listening. This takes all sorts of verbal and non-verbal communication – but mostly just something as simple as shutting up and doing just that– listening.
All those who know me might laugh, knowing this is a practice that is easier for some than others. To improve my training and development, they have me record every one of my meetings so I can listen to the meetings afterward– the good, the bad, the ugly, and the missed opportunities. Recording all of the meetings has been tricky as my audience is global, diverse, and fast-paced. Depending on the person, timing of day, location of the meeting or whatever works for the other person – it could be held in a number of different ways.
While you may be planning to hold informational meetings for your job search, research interviews for an academic project, or may be getting involved in the blogging community or with MIIS radio – we thought you may find the following tools used helpful:
Skype – For international calls, face-time calls and to decrease cell phone minutes and a hands free call.
Implications: Need a strong internet connection (turn off the camera if the wi-fi bandwidth isn’t strong).
Cell phone – You can take this call anywhere and even put it on speaker if you need to be taking notes.
Implications: Need enough minutes on your plan, and background noise can be a problem if you’re recording the call and using speaker phone.
Audio Recorder – I’ve used an Olympus Digital Voice Recorder WS-400S and love it. It’s small, easy to use, has lots of storage, great quality and is powered by one battery to use anywhere. Also, it has a USB attachment to plug and play or to offload files onto the computer.
Implications – You need to have extra batteries if you’re going to be using it for a long time away from a store and/or will need to convert the files to mp3s.
Audacity – This is a free program that you can download off the internet and I use it for recording calls. You can also edit audio as well. It’s not the highest quality program but it’s easy enough for a beginner like me and for minimal needs like editing out parts and/or shortening calls.
Implications – In terms of quality, there are other programs out there (seven different options here) but the learning curves might be steeper and depends on what type of computer you have, and/or what level of quality you really need.
Switch – This is a paid program that has a free 30-day trial that is fantastic for transferring files from one format to another. I use it to change my WAN files (from my audio recorder) and aiff files from audacity to mp3 files, which is what my colleagues need to listen to them on their computer and./or in iTunes.
Implications – This is not free after 30 days so you will need to either pay or go to another plan after that time period.
Box.net – I use this for easy and organized online storage. It’s like an virtual library to store documents and files in folders that I can either share with friends or colleagues at anytime — either a specific item, or an entire folder. It’s secure and easy to use as long as you have the person’s email.
The implication: The person you’re sharing files with would also need a box.net account.
Excel spreadsheet – I have to track my progress and stay motivated to do this! I’ve set up columns with names, times, and personal information, and deadlines. reminders of all the administration actions I have to do for the company (updating the data base, email follow-ups and more).
The implication – You need to motivate yourself to actually use this regularly to keep it manageable, so setting up deadlines for yourself, color-coding priorities (using green – for go, yellow – get it ready or red for hold– or other colors that work for you) are good ways to manage priorities visually.
At the Commons, in innovation clinic consulting sessions and group project appointments, we talk with our clients about how specific, individual skills and processes can also have an exponential effect to an organization’s larger system or purpose. In thinking about listening and my recent project, I know it will not only help me with my job training but also help me with how effective I can be with other colleagues, teams and in the greater industry. Further, as I read last night in an article about jobs that didn’t exist ten years ago, prime talent are now being hired to do just that – listen – to consumers in the market, online and especially across all social media outlets. They are doing this to make sure their company is providing services consumers are asking for, and, when providing solutions — they are as tailored as they can be for the concerns/needs of their consumers. How well we can listen will directly be connected to how well the organization can not just engage better with its end-users, but also engage with the larger industry in its Marketing and Communications, thus reinforcing its brand. This image shows how this process might be illustrated with listening and responding.
In this TED talk, Julian Treasure, shares “Five ways to Listen Better,” and this Mind Tools site shares other good suggestions about improving active listening– among other great tech resources. How could some of the digital tools explained above complement these tips? We know that if we can help people communicate and listen better on an individual level, then we also can be more helpful and effective, and contribute to larger impact on the organizations we work with well. Hope you try out some of these tools to help you listen better or contribute to your next project, and let us know how it goes!