We work with audio, which means we communicate ideas through sound. Most of us are really good at doing this by getting all our effects and fader positions right (the famous hard skills). However, when talking to our clients we seem to lose a lot of that capability of communication. Let’s see what you can do to make the collaboration between you and your client the most pleasurable experience possible – simply by communicating better!
1. First things first: Listen, listen, listen!
The greek philosopher Epicetus said that ‘We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.‘ I have seen a lot of arguments – most of them could have been avoided if everyone involved in the conversation would have decided to listen more and talk less.
In most cases, there is more than one solution to a problem. Consequently, your client’s point of view is most probably as valid as yours!
2. If in doubt, don’t say it
You may feel the urge to make a comment about that vocal take. About the guitar performance. About a dialogue line that is not working well. In most situations it’s better to hear your client’s opinion first. In the end, remember it’s their project…
If there are no significant technical reasons supporting your point of view, maybe sleeping a night over it and listening to the mix with fresh ears is better than objecting right away.
3. Ask more and make less statements
Let’s suppose you have a vocal line and you think the performance needs editing. Instead of saying ‘I think this line needs editing’ you can simply rephrase the sentence to ‘What do you think about this vocal line here?’ and take it from there.
The advantage is that you are not stating anything negative, you are simply asking your collaborator about her opinion.
4. Make communication bidirectional
The world is filled with people that love to hear themselves talking. Don’t be one of them. Always try to maintain a healthy dialogue. Monologues are fatiguing.
Choose the right channel for communication
Nowadays there are so many communication channels available to us. The medium of communication can have a great impact on the outcome of a conversation. Let’s see the pros and cons of each of them.
5. Personal conversation
The best way for approval sessions and to fix problems. In a personal conversation you get the whole picture of body language and speech. Be attentive, use this to your advantage. Try to read the mood of your client during the conversation. Call for a break and have a coffee if necessary. All those things are very difficult when you are not in a one to one conversation.
6. Video call
Second best to a personal conversation and my go-to channel for approvals or discussing problems with a remote client.
7. The good old phone (or WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook…) call
In a phone call, you take away the visual element. This gives you one cue less to rely on when evaluating your client’s mood (body language), but the fact that she does not see you sometimes may be an advantage. The common ground of all the channels mentioned above is that they are real-time. Below I will list channels that work in non real time, since there can be a significant delay between one statement and the corresponding reply. The good thing about all the channels mentioned below is that you have a written record that you can save for future references. The biggest disadvantage is that you cannot control time or mood in which the client receives the message.
Any official communication about your project should go via email. Many have stated that ’email is dead’ but it’s still the most official and appropriate way when dealing with briefings and feedback. Emails feel personal and they are searchable in case you need to pull out an older message as a reference.
9. Messenger services (text)
If you are working in a production team, group text messaging services like WhatsApp are great to keep everyone in the loop. A couple of considerations: Don’t pollute a group conversation with messages that target a specific individual – contact that person in private instead. In case of doubt if a message is suitable, think twice before posting. Clutter can lead to great problems, and the more you contribute to the cleanliness of the environment the better.
10. Messenger services (audio)
Audio messages seem to be en vogue right now. They are a great time saver on the sender’s side, especially when you are on the go and can’t really write long texts on your phone. But beware: Don’t exchange audio messages with people that you don’t know – some people simply don’t like them. Also keep it simple and short – nobody likes to listen to a 5 minute audio message only to find the important content in the last 30 seconds.
11. Social networks
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn… they all come with some messaging functionality. I personally find it fatiguing to keep up with all my social network messages. Therefore, I keep those channels open for initial contact only. If a client gets in touch with me through a social network I move the conversation over to email, WhatsApp or telefone as soon as possible.
Until next time – Make some noise!