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The 'People Factor' in Teleconferencing Is What Determines How Well It Works.

Choosing the right technology is only a partial step toward implementing teleconferencing as a routine business practice. Because teleconferencing is first and foremost an interpersonal communications tool, the critical factor is the "people factor."

The challenge is to educate, motivate and train people to teleconference effectively and ensure a continuing increase in the freqeuncy of use and diversity of application.

In the last five years, dramatic developments in satellite communications have made teleconferencing increasingly available, affordable and accessible. Business and trade publications are filled with examples of increased productivity, enhanced communications, improved decision making, and reduced travel time and dollars. Few people question the viability or dependability of the technology. Quite simply, it works.

Teleconferencing, then, is not so much an innovative technology as it is an innvative business practice. Most people and organizations have little experience with communications media that require participation and interaction. They have grown up in a passive environment, listening to radio or watching television. The same phenomena of fear and resistance that we see in the slow acceptance of other innovations apply to teleconferencing--only more so.

Teleconferencing puts people on the spot. In telemeetings, participants must establish a working relationship and exchange with others trhogu a medium that supports only certain kinds of sensory contact. Some communication skills can be transferred to teleconferencing from more familiar and traditional meeting environments; others not only are new to the user, but may differ for each teleconferencing format. Timely People Transactions

Business transactions are people transactions, and people are the difference that makes a difference. The critical combination of the right people exchanging the right information at the right time means more-decisive action and more-rapid turnaround in product development, marketing and sales, administration and training.

This timely flow of information significantly improves the organization's ability to be productive in virtually all facets of its operation.

The people factor is the real key to a teleconferencing project's success. Are your people ready and willing to telecommunicate? Do they understand the personal and organizational benefits of using teleconferencing for accomplishing their objectives?

The challenge is to educate, motivate and train people in the organization to optimize the teleconferencing opportunity and ensure a continuing increase in the frequency of use, diversity of application and effective integration of teleconferencing as a business communications tool.

As with any innovation, meaningful change comes slowly. The successful move to teleconferencing requires people throughout the organization to establish different working relationships and communication patterns, along with a readiness to use the hardware itself. By including a user-support program in its planning and budgeting for teleconferencing, management is, in effect, taking out a highly cost-effective insurance policy, underwriting its substantial investment in hardware with crucial support of the "liveware."

Successful training for teleconferencing is driven by people, their needs and applications, rather than by technology. The key to integrating teleconferencing into an organization lies not in mastering the technology, but rather in working with the subtleties of the people-technology interface. Training Program Tenets

For this reason, TeleMedia's training programs, which are designed around the people factors, rest on these tenets:

* A program takes as its point of department the organizational culture of the intended users.

* It reflects the actual and perceived communication needs of the intended users.

* It mitigates people's common fears about technology and their confusion about its potential impact on their lives.

* It is grounded in established theories of innovation and change.

* It identifies early innovators in the organization and enlists their participation as internal allies and role models.

* It creates a safe environment for risk-taking and experimentation.

* It overcomes people's resistance to adopting new behaviors and their fears about appearing foolish or clumsy in front of their colleagues.

* It establishes channels for feedback, evaluation and support networking.

* It identifies the emergence of new communication patterns that are precipitated by "tele" relationships.

* It encourages people to initiate unanticipated applications for teleconferencing.

* It establishes information and understanding as the basis for training.

* It presents strategies that address different learning styles.

* It makes people aware of the differences in sensory inputs and outputs inherent in each teleconferencing medium.

* It stimulates the enthusiasm and curiosity of potential or reluctant users.

What, then, does all this mean to those in business, education and government who are planning to introduce or expand teleconferencing in their organizations? Perhaps the most important observation is that teleconferencing as routine communications practice will not take hold overnight. Teleconferencing, is by its very nature, a people-to-people activity, and a well-conceived training program must take the long view.

In essence, this comprehensive approach to teleconferencing is a necessary investment in every organization's richest resource--its people and their productivity.
COPYRIGHT 1984 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Weidlein, J.
Publication:Communications News
Date:Apr 1, 1984
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