In today’s world, there are many different methods for communication: in person meetings, email, video conferences, phone calls, and collaborative editors, among others. This document is intended to help you decide which to use when communicating with your committee.
In Person Meetings
Best Used For
In person meetings can generally only happen during ALA Midwinter and/or ALA Annual, and not all committee members may be present. To ensure that the committee work happens throughout the year, it is recommended that virtual communication be used in addition to in-person meetings. Even if the work is done primarily virtually, committee chairs may still want to arrange in-person meetings during ALA Midwinter and/or ALA Annual in order to build community.
Best Used For
Email is helpful for data gathering and information sharing that doesn’t require real-time interaction. Use it for scheduling meetings, sharing progress, and issuing follow up reminders. Email is beneficial because committee members may respond whenever they have time and have a longer time to think about their answers, and it leaves a record which is relatively easy to search for at a later stage. However, discussions may take longer, people may feel less compelled to participate than if they were in a meeting, and information is not collected in a single place.
- Ask for acknowledgement, keep track of who has responded, and be prepared to follow up as necessary.
- Set expectations of who to reply to (the sender or reply-all). It may be best for replies to be sent to the committee chair, who can then send out summaries of the discussion and any proposals or decisions.
- The subject of an email should tell the person receiving the email what the email is about and what is required of him or her and by when.
- In order to keep things moving, consider lazy consensus. If people don’t respond to proposal by set deadline, then it will be assumed they are in agreement.
Video Conferences (Skype, Zoom, WebEx)
See this document on picking a web conferencing software.
Best Used For
Video conferences are helpful when two or more committee members must discuss key issues, brainstorm a solution, prioritize, or make decisions in a forum that requires synchronous interaction and discussion. The ability to see colleagues’ reactions can make video conferences more engaging and productive than phone conferences. Visual cues can make it easier for those who are hard-of-hearing to follow along, and video allows them to invite in an ASL interpreter if needed. Facilitators should consider selecting video conferencing software that allows users to call in via telephone, as not everyone may have access to a webcam or microphone. This also allows hard-of-hearing users to use TTY devices during the meeting.
As video conferences require finding a time where everyone is available to meet for a set length of time, they are not the preferred mode of communication for quick, one-off questions or for sharing updates/progress where no further discussion is necessary.
(See doc on facilitating; the tips below are for participants)
- Use the video feature – Ideally, all people are showing their faces
- Use your microphone – Speaking generally takes less time than chatting. If there is a lot of background noise, mute your microphone when you are not speaking.
- Chat wisely – Use the chat to communicate around questions asked in the group and to ensure everyone can effectively engage. Avoid private, off-topic chats. Make sure comments are relevant and appropriate.
Best Used For
Phone calls may be convenient for one-on-one discussions, if you have something that will take too long to discuss over email and video communication may not be necessary, feasible, or convenient. Video conferences are generally preferred to phone conferences for meetings with three or more people, but a phone conference may be a back up solution if a video conference fails.
- Should you not reach someone over the phone, send a follow up email or text (instead or in addition to a voicemail).
- Some video conferencing software will also allow participants without a computer and microphone to call in. Consider using that software instead of a phone call.
Collaborative Editors (Google Docs)
Google Drive (Docs, Spreadsheets, etc.). Chairs should ensure their committee documents are in LITA’s Google Drive folder and that ownership of the documents is assigned to email@example.com.
Best Used For
Collaborative editors are useful for drafting documents, creating agendas and taking notes for meetings, and project management/tracking. Collaborative editors erase the need for sending documents back and forth and tracking version numbers, and they allow for information about the committee to be saved in a single folder. Collaborative editors are often used in conjunction with one of the above forms of communication.
- See this tipsheet about Document Management.
- Most collaborative software includes a chat client, commenting feature, and the ability to track changes. These are useful for offering feedback.
- Ensure that sharing settings are set up appropriately, so that the intended audience (and only the intended audience) can view or edit the documents.
- Google Drive Tips:
- Google Drive can only allow up to 50 simultaneous editors in a document.
- Be careful when moving documents in and out of a folder, as that can move documents for everyone who has access.
- See this document on Creating Accessible Google Drive Documents.
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