I recently had the opportunity to present at AUDC in Austin, TX during their Ignite session. The Ignite session requires individuals to present 20 slides, each slide appearing for only 15 seconds, resulting in a five minute presentation. Given the speed of the slides, presenters were encouraged to use more pictures and fewer words so I used my favorite subject – photos of my 22-month-old son – to illustrate how to best connect with your users.
Whenever an organization is implementing a new system, either for internal use by staff or external use by members, people take extreme care to ensure the system is working and provides the features the users most need. Yet those same implementations can fail, even if they have the perfect system, because of poor communication. Staff are not understand the purpose of the system, or members are not aware that the new system is place, and the system is eventually deemed a failure due to a lack of use.
Instead, the team implementing the system should have a communication strategy designed to ensure full buy-in. A phrase I like to use is, “You’ve got to communicate your message until other people are saying it for you.” The idea being if other people who were not part of implementation understand the purpose of the new system so well they can communicate the value of the system to other users, then you have done your job. How do you accomplish that?
Keep it simple – This photo of my son is simple, black and white picture, yet there is a lot people can take away from the picture. Similarly with your message to your users about a system, keep it simple. A simple message will be easier for users to retain and share with others.
Get on their level – When implementing a system, people often forget that not everyone around them has spent the last 6 months working extensively on this project. It’s important to take a step back and try thinking about the system from their perspective. How will they use the system? What is the value to them? If the message is to broad and general, you’ll never convince anyone that it’s important, and you’ll be the only talking about the value. So meet them on their level.
Educate the users – With a new system, people will likely need to do some learning. Make sure to take the time and educate your users. Inform them of why the system is being implemented, what the benefits are, and how the system will be used. If you’re implementing an entirely new system, providing staff with one round of training probably won’t be enough. Provide multiple sessions over several weeks, find different ways to communicate the material based on different learning styles, and connect the training to what users will actually be doing. Also…
Have some fun – People like to have fun, so have fun with your communication strategy. Maybe set up a top-10 list of reasons even Ronda Rousey couldn’t break the system. Have a kick-off party for staff with a cake. Or print out actual awards to give to people who are using the system. People always get excited about things if you give them a reason, so have some fun with it.
Empathize with them – Change is always hard, but that’s okay. Pretending like it’s not is when people get into trouble. Instead, be up front with your users who struggle, let them know that you understand, give them a place they can go where their concerns can be heard. The people who are most concerned about a new system will be your biggest advocates if you can help them get over the hump. Sometimes there may be a little hand holding involved, but that’s okay, just make sure you don’t lose your users because they feel you don’t care.
The work has only begun – Just because you’ve launched your system doesn’t mean you get to stop communicating. Keep getting your message out there, reminding your users that the system is there and that they should use it. Just like a garden, you have to constantly take care of the system, otherwise it will end up overgrown and useless. If you stop communicating about the system, why would anyone else bother to advocate on your behalf?
Repetition – If all the above are happening, then this one comes naturally, but never be afraid to repeat your message. Politicians give the same stump speech over and over because they know that right around the time they are getting sick of the speech is the first time someone is starting to hear the message. Same goes for the system – very rarely do people complain about being too well informed – it’s the other extreme that will cost you.
So there you have it. Hopefully if you’ve gotten this far you’re able to come away with at least one thing, which is that I love my son. And that’s a message I’ll never stop communicating.