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THE SOAP BOX OF E-SAM
Amtgard Communication
[06/24/2015] [Randall]

Communication is a challenge. And sometimes, people make it more of a challenge than it needs to be. This is especially true in Amtgard--unlike the workplace, academia, or regular circles of friends, we're an all-walks-of-life organization, and that means we can find ourselves talking to people ranging from high school kids to college professors--sometimes all at once, and with the same post! That makes things complicated, because the way you might text your bae isn't going to work when speaking to a thousand Amtgarders who ... aren't your bae. Fortunately, there are several things a person can do to make their communication more successful.

This article isn't about basic civility, which I touched on last month. That's a big part of communication, yeah, and you need to be good at that too. What this article focuses on is the skill of communicating in a Facebook environment. It'll be about how to post information so that it gets your thoughts across and makes your life easier.

The thing about poor communication is that it is not a problem in and of itself. Writing up a bad post isn't inherently bad. It's what it causes that makes it matter: people ignore your announcements, misconstrue what you're trying to say, or don't take you seriously. Those are all things that make your job harder. Unnecessarily harder, too! To fix it, a person experiencing any of 'em might peer at how they are communicating, rather than what they are communicating, to see if there's a problem. There often is.

Let's go through a few principles:

  • Remember your audience. A post to a kingdom list goes to hundreds of people. The main Amtgard page goes to thousands. Speak as though you're on a stage with that many people watching.
  • Words are your uniform. When you make poor posts or restrict your punctuation to the occasional use of "lol," you're going to come across poorly, just like a person who dresses in awful garb makes a poor impression when talking to newbies. Words are most of what we see when someone posts online, meaning they are essentially clothing. Write for the way you want to be seen.
  • Know your strengths. Are you good at communicating online? Great, rock on. Are you bad at it? Figure out if you can improve yourself--and delegate if you can't.
  • Be interesting. There is a difference between "wm on sat bring swords lol 12pm" and an informative, conversational post with a link to the fighting events.
  • Keep it simple. Rambling will make your post unreadable. Say what you need to say, be interesting and clear, and call it a day.
  • Spellcheck. If you know you can't spell well, run your stuff through a spellchecker. If there is no spellchecker, type your post offline where there is one. If you're typing from your phone, use autocorrect, or wait till you're at a computer.

    And for goodness sake, try not to misspell stuff that's on the screen in front of you. If you are posting on the Amtgard page, your excuses for misspelling "Amtgard" are somewhat reduced. It's right there. I spent years being mystified by people calling me "Randal" on e-Samurai. It's like . . . it's right there, man.

    And Google makes it easy to look this stuff up. I look up words all the time. Train yourself to do this, and your posts will improve.

  • Communicate enough to get your point across, but don't overdo it.

    Ahem.

    Doing this can be exhausting even in the best of times. If you must be this guy, remember to use your powers for good.

    This is unfortunately the new normal: instead of just posting to the Amtgard Facebook group, announcements are sent out to every group a person can find, which can be hilarious for people who are on all of 'em. The end result is that many of these posts get ignored. If you're doing this kind of announcement, make sure it's useful. If it's for an event, figure out how many announcements you plan to send, and when. Maybe there's one spamming a few months out, another one a few weeks out, and maybe a couple more the week of the event itself. That leaves space for any extra announcements that need to be made. And pick someone folks'll read! This is your PR person, and you are advertising on a social network. Pick someone who is good at that and make it count.

* * *

For beginners, there are some simple things you can do right away to improve your communication. I know some folks who just don't grok the Internet, and who aren't natural communicators when it comes to text. They succeed anyway, because they doggedly punctuate all their posts, avoid textism like u and lol, and manage to keep their number of punctuation marks down to one per sentence. It makes a difference:

ok listen everyone were gonna play at the park the one by taylor lets all be there ok shadow falls for life!!!!! peace

versus

Okay listen everyone. We're gonna play at the park, the one by Taylor. Let's all be there, okay! Shadowfalls for life! Peace.

It's still not brilliant communication, and the punctuation is still a bit avant garde, but you can see what a little work can do. Another example:

Hey, where is fighter practice today?

At uni do you need a ride

versus

Hey, where is fighter practice today?

At the university. Do you need a ride?

It's something. And it adds up to making your communication more successful and making you a more credible communicator. It's not terrific, sure, and a kingdom officer will want to hold themselves to a higher standard--but it's a start, and could be your first step in doing Amtgard communication better.

And leaders, autocrats, and officers, remember that communication is an Amtgard task like any other. I dunno about the rest of y'all, but I delegate the tasks I don't wish to do or can't do. For example: when I'm a regent, I hand off the actual cooking tasks to someone who can cook. The same principle works for Amtgard communication. When it comes to promoting an event, I pick someone skilled in Internet communication to do my public relations for me. Appointing a person to do this is great, since it means you don't have multiple sources of information. It's all going through one person, and that person can make sure it's right, timely, and interesting. This also lets that person pace communication so that it is not overwhelming. Monarchs can do the same thing. If you're good at communication, then speak--but if not, perhaps you can delegate announcements to a herald. Why not?

This matters for reasons beyond just communicating well. Parks are judged by how their members act, especially their leaders. When it comes to kings, queens, princes, dukes, and the like, remember that you're a symbol of your land as well as an administrator of it. How you conduct yourself online will be how people see your land. This means communicating well has added benefits--you make your land look good!--and communicating poorly has increased detriments--you make your land look ... not as good.

Communication should be fun. Humans were born to communicate. We do it naturally. With a little work, even beginners can improve. And leaders can find ways to surmount whatever challenges they have to become solid communicators for their kingdoms. Train yourself to be better, delegate, or even have someone proofread your posts. There's no reason to be bad at it--and lots of ways to do it well.

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