In Part 1 of our 5 Keys to Effective Group Communication Online we considered that group members need to acknowledge when they understand others, get to the point fast, give examples, re-state your points and know when to take things offline. Here are five more ideas to help group communication flourish online.
Appoint a Group Leader
In many cases, your real-world group will already have a leader. Sports teams have a coach, classrooms have a teacher and ministries usually have an appointed leader. Usually it will be up to this person to serve as a moderator to ensure that messages stay on topic and encourage positive communication. However, in some cases, it might be necessary for someone else in the group to be appointed the online group leader. The point here is to establish who will participate and how. In addition to monitoring the conversation, this person can be responsible for actually using the technology, spurring on productivity and getting the most out of the tool. In some cases it might be the more technologically savvy person to help lead the efforts of the group with regards to it’s online communication.
Actually Use the Tool
You may have heard this said around here before. “If no one uses it, then no one will use it.” Another responsibility of the group leader is to make sure that everyone is plugged in and knows how to use the software. Quite often it’s the leader’s responsibility to start discussions, upload seminal documents, add events to the online calendar. But if someone in the group doesn’t start using the tool, then everyone will resort to whatever they were doing before; which usually results in more time and wasted communication efforts. If group members start using the features then others will see it and start using it too. Then, effective group communication can be cultivated.
Centralize all Group Communications
Once someone in the group starts an online discussion then people will reply and others will be encouraged to start discussions. Communication will begin to flow. But don’t stop with just messages. Most online groups tools have more to them than just a messaging system. For instance with MemberHub, each hub has a calendar, a files repository, a place to store photo albums and a collaborative feature called whiteboards. Each tools has it’s own communication advantage and when used properly your groups will really excel at group communication. So go ahead and store your files and forms in there and use the calendar and create signups lists. When everything is centralized, then everyone knows where to get the latest information and logistics come easily.
Lay Ground Rules
It can be really good for some groups to lay ground rules with regards to interactions. As is the case with most social media tools, once it’s said, it’s out there and the message is sent. Electronic communication can make it tempting for some to say things they may not in person. Whether it be something destructive or something as harmless as an inside joke when conversation gets off-topic or is otherwise irrelevent to the group it’s easy for others to become annoyed. One clear way to combat this is to list some rules and guidelines in an obvious place inside the online group. Keep the rules positive and encouraging…in other words, don’t make it a list of DO NOT’s. Rather make it really clear what the online group is for and how to use it best. Simple 1, 2, 3 lists can go a long way toward encouraging members to stay “in-bounds”.
Keep It Organized.
Laying ground rules can definitely help with keeping the group on topic but what about staying organized? Most groups go through seasons. For example a sports league team may have a fall league and spring league. When there are new documents or schedules, make sure that they are clearly posted and that members cannot accidentally consider out-dated data. Clean up old announcements that are no longer timely and make sure the latest information is easy to find.
Certainly there are more. Leave a comment with your ideas!