How to Choose the Right Channel to Present Information

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My name is Amy, and I am a freelance presentation designer, working in PowerPoint, Google Slides, and Keynote. My passion is creating branded presentations that represent you as a trusted professional in your industry, strengthen your brand in the marketplace, and engage your audience with an elevated experience that will convert and make them remember you for all the right reasons.

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We’ve all been there… Sitting in a seemingly endless meeting that easily could have been a quick email, or reading through a long email chain that would have been much more efficiently resolved in a 15-minute meeting, or having a long and detailed company strategy report dropped on your desk that you’re too distracted to digest that would have been an excellent presentation. Time is valuable for all of us, and in the workplace, it also equals money. With the pressures of the modern-day workplace, it’s frustrating to constantly devote time to unnecessary meetings or to sorting through complicated email threads or detailed reports.

Effective communication is about conveying information to your audience in the most functional manner possible. Choosing the wrong communication medium can make your information unclear, and lead to confusion, and more time lost. As a result of choosing the wrong channel to present information, many businesses lose a large number of man-hours to inefficient communication.

If you’ve ever been confused about whether a quick meeting is best, or if an email is more appropriate, you’re not alone! To help you avoid any future mix ups, we’re sharing some basic rules and etiquette for selecting the best form of workplace communication in any situation.

Laying the Groundwork

A few factors will play into your decision on which channel to choose, so before you get started, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How quickly do you need a response? Responses can be spoken, written, or digital.
  • Is the message formal or informal?
  • Who is going to see the information? Are there any secondary audiences that will also view it?
  • How much planning does your communication need before you send it? Written messages and presentations need more planning than face-to-face or quick messages, especially because most of your digital or written correspondence is most likely stored, and in some scenarios will also be on public record.
  • Are there any audience constraints? Does your message require any audience coordination or resources to ensure everyone can receive and respond to your message in the proper context?

Planning will not only save your recipient time, but will also ensure they receive your information the way that benefits them the most. This saves your time too, as you’ll avoid having to repeat or explain your message to get your point across.

When to choose a ‘Quick Message’

Quick messages are those FYIs, questions, or comments sent through texting channels like GroupMe, Teams, text, and Slack.

If you have something small to ask or something informal to announce, most people would prefer you do it through this medium. It’s more casual than email and easier to receive quick responses. It can also build a friendly atmosphere with others in the organization.

Quick messages are instantly accessible, so use them for current updates, small questions, or reminders. They are also very valuable for situations where you need an instant reply to quickly complete a task with other team members.

Keep in mind, quick message platforms tend to be difficult to search, so if your communication is something that is likely important to be referred back to later, you may need to choose a different medium.

When to choose Email

Email is the channel you probably use most often in a business setting. Emails are appropriate for information about a specific topic, questions to one or more people, sending attachments, or announcing a meeting. Email also serves a documenting purpose and can easily be filed and referred to later, forwarded, CC’d, or BCC’d if needed.

If a message needs no further context and summarizes what you want to say, then send that email. Your team members will appreciate the brief email instead of a meeting. Opt for an email in situations requiring more formal business communication, longer messages with complex topics, or if you need to provide important information to multiple people and don’t anticipate requiring feedback from multiple stakeholders. **Sending an email with multiple questions requiring a reply from one person is completely acceptable, and is often the best way to get definitive answers from a team member that you can refer back to repeatedly as you work.

Email can be the wrong choice when the information being shared will spur responses from multiple stakeholders or needs discussion to resolve. In these cases, a meeting will be a better option.

When to choose a Meeting (in person or virtual)

Meetings are best suited when you’re participating in or leading a collaborative effort with a team. Meetings tend to be a bit more informal, relaxed, and applicable to what people are currently working on. This is an optimal time for team building. Face-to-face interactions (especially in person) strengthen relationships among peers.

Use in-person and virtual meetings to accomplish your communication goals. Consider the format most convenient for the participants. Meetings are most effective for gaining team member input on a collaborative project and gathering opinions on important decisions. Consulting with your group during a meeting will create a dialogue and generate immediate responses.

Avoid scheduling meetings if you only want to discuss a single topic, provide quick updates, or make a small announcement, then solidify it into an email. Schedule a presentation if you have large amounts of complex information to share. Presentations are better mediums for effectively transmitting details and encouraging your audience to ask questions and take action.

When to choose a Presentation

Use presentations less frequently than emails or quick messages. Scheduling 15-minute (or less) presentations with information that could have been sent in a quick email can frustrate your audience.

Presentations should always provide your audience with value–not just sharing information. Situations that suit the time-investment of preparing and giving a presentation, are those in which everyone in an organization (especially a large organization) needs to know information, and/or buy-in is required, a discussion or Q&A is necessary, or a complex topic needs to be shared and/or discussed, are all great reasons to select a presentation. If you have crucial information to share and want to ensure your presentation is visually elevated to drive your important message home for your audience, contact me for a discovery call to discuss your needs.

One example of a great way to implement a presentation to your advantage is with training sessions. Because presentations allow you to share information using a variety of visual, audio-visual, data visualizations, and high-level information points, they are much more memorable than many other business communication mediums.

As an added bonus, if you record a training presentation, you have an evergreen training tool that you can use again and again without an additional time-investment on your part. A recorded presentation can also be convenient for your audience, who can pause, rewind, take notes, and review the presentation at their convenience.

Regardless of your reason for choosing a presentation as your communication medium, presenters should recognize how important the audience’s time is, and always strive to communicate in the most concise way possible. Choosing the best communication medium depends on your audience, the information you’re presenting, and how urgent this information is. If you plan your communications with these factors in mind, you’ll have the most effective communication for that situation.