Or are you at risk of slipping up with the ever evolving new rules and codes of modern technology – and accidentally delivering a rude or pretty poor impression of your great business?
Imagine you’re at a party to celebrate your friend’s dog winning The Best Car-Driving Dog Competition 2012.
You’ve fallen into conversation with an extremely knowledgeable, funny and dapper guest.
It’s all going great and you’re both happily exchanging insightful anecdotes about the most effective methods of teaching a dog to drive a car, when all of a sudden another guest interrupts and steers the conversation towards the completely ridiculous topic of cats driving buses!
How rude, you would rightly think. What bad manners and uncouth behaviour!
It’s certainly not something you would do yourself, is it?
But this kind of behaviour is strangely prolific within business, even though it’s often not remotely intentional.
Technology has created a simplified and convenient solution to rapid communication for most businesses today.
But the increasing popularity of smartphone calls, conference calls, and even just simple online instant messaging, brings with it the increasing risk of accidental rude behaviour!
So, allow me to politely present a rundown of some of the most simple but hugely important basics of Hi-Tech Etiquette to bear in mind when getting your paws into modern technology in business…
It sometimes seems as if Smartphones have been around forever, yet there are still a couple of simple courteous steps which tend to get overlooked far too often.
Firstly, don’t use your speaker phone when out in public!
Actually, this one is purely for the sake of the people around you.
It’s tempting to think that we look dashing and dynamic because we’re such important people that we have to run through the streets bellowing into our palms – but the real effect is quite the opposite!
Complete strangers have no burning desire to be part of your working day. After all, not everyone is interested in how many dogs have passed their driving tests today – they’ve got their own problems to be going on with!
Speaking of the Speakerphone option, don’t forget that it’s very bad form to place someone on speakerphone without telling them first and gaining their agreement!
They might not be aware exactly who else is in on the call, and that could potentially get very messy…
If you’re out and about in a public area, such as a driving test centre that may be full of yapping dogs, then unless you’re willing to very quickly step away from the area, it might be an idea to simply mute your phone altogether.
The dogs might well be happy and barking excitedly about getting their new licences, but the person on the other end of the phone is likely to feel that they’re not really engaged in a proper conversation at all.
On a similar theme, remember that the person you’re speaking to deserves your full attention throughout the call, and should never be made to feel as if you’re being distracted by other more interesting events going on around you.
Try also to be acutely aware of what you’re actually saying whilst out in public.
Confidential information about clients is exactly that. Confidential.
It should stay that way at all costs, so strive to keep it private. Don’t just go wandering into Smokey Joe’s Small Business Bar whilst loudly announcing on your phone that Fido has just passed his HGV licence on his sixth attempt!
Oh, and remember that THERE’S NO NEED TO SHOUT!
Today’s telephones are highly sensitive and even just reasonably loud talk can often come across as a potentially frightening roar.
Online Instant Messaging is another incredibly useful tool that allows users to instantly communicate to each another – providing of course that they are both online.
But remember that even in Cyberspace, people still reserve their right to privacy!
You wouldn’t just barge dramatically into someone’s office without knocking first, would you?
Well, the same rule applies to Instant Messaging.
Before engaging someone in conversation, it’s considered polite to send them a friendly ‘ping’ first to see if they’re free for a chat.
Bear in mind too, that you shouldn’t be a slave to the Instant Message yourself.
If your schedule is likely to be severely disrupted by a lengthy chat, then it’s good to say No occasionally.
You can always offer an alternative time to chat if you’re currently snowed under with dog driving lesson bookings.
Instant messaging should really be just that – instant.
It works best for short snappy questions and quick updates as to how many dogs have passed their driving tests this week.
If the conversation is likely to get a bit more complex, then you might be better off saving it for a fully-fledged email or even a phone call.
Instant Messages are perhaps just a little bit too disposable, and not really an ideal platform for the important and complicated stuff.
The final point to remember with Instant Messaging is that you can set your status so that even though you’re online, you can appear to be busy or even offline.
This is a bit like hanging the Do Not Disturb sign on your hotel door. It might surprise you just how much more work you can get done when people think that you’re unavailable!
You might assume that Video Conferencing is geared more towards executives from the faceless corporate sector, who don’t like to get too physically close to other human beings in case they come out in a rash.
But it’s actually quite a handy tool for Small Businesses too, and is likely to snowball in popularity over the next few years as the feature becomes integrated into more and more everyday online platforms.
Video Conferences allow you to chat directly with clients and colleagues without the obvious travel costs and disruption. So it could ultimately prove to be a handy money-saver for the shrewd Small Business owner.
But here’s Rule Number One;
Always assume that the camera and microphone are switched on!
When taking part in a conference, you should never just guess that people probably can’t hear or see you yet. I’ve lost count of the number of nightmare stories I’ve heard recently when participants have made a spectacular error of judgement.
They’re actually very funny if it’s not happening to you…
But to keep yourself safe from humiliation and regret, never say or do anything that you wouldn’t want anyone else to see or hear!
There should also be a strict No Fidgeting rule when taking part in a video conference.
It can be seriously off-putting for people when video conferencing with a chronic fidgeter.
So try to keep calm and still if you want to get your message across loud and clear.
Try to avoid excessive movements of any kind. There shouldn’t be any fidgeting, spinning, rocking, sliding, or jumping in the air, no matter how excited you are about your latest dog driving licence facts and figures!
In a similar vein, be a little careful about what clothes you wear when participating in a conference.
It may sound silly, but bright and flashy patterned clothing can actually be very distracting and can even interfere with the camera.
You might quite fancy wearing your favourite dog-in-a-safety-helmet pullover, but you’ll probably be better off with something a bit more neutral with solid patterns which won’t mess with the vision of your captive audience!
So there we have a few of the basics, but I’m sure there are several thousand more rules and codes if you wanted to venture even deeper into the ever-changing guidebook….
But how much importance do you place on following the new rules of Hi-Tech Etiquette?
Do you get annoyed by the perceived poor behaviour of technology users around you?
Perhaps you have your own set of rules which you think more people should follow in the interests of good hi-tech manners?