It’s not what you say it’s how you say it. Researchers have concluded, listening is greatly influenced by tone and body language. Up to 90% of verbal communication is tone. People hear your tone not just your words. Close the door. Please, close the door. They both look the same on the page. Flat. Yet, add voice and tone and the door might be quietly shut or slammed – the difference in the behavior may not be attributed to the word please but to the tone and body language.
As further implementation of the sequester grinds out, the Office of Management and Budget sent directives to the Federal Agencies, including NASA, regarding travel and attendance policies at conferences. It is not what the OMB says, it is how they say it. Last week, I got a 21 page memo describing travel and conference policy. The words disallowed and must are used more frequently than in a divorce decree – I’ve got one of those too. Nothing has changed. We still have the big problem: no federal budget. We can do better. The country is just barely working its way out of a recession.
The President submitted his budget this week and Speaker of the House Boehner issued the Republican response. Speaker Boehner’s tone was pretty flat, not much emotion until his last statement. “I am not going to kick the can down the road anymore”. Then came the other 10% – body language. He abruptly turned around and walked off the stage. Conversation over. No negotiations. I’ll probably get a 42 page memo this week.
Notes From the Field: This is a new part of my column. Periodically I will report to you on my travel experiences as the government implements their new communications strategy. This strategy on the face makes some sense. If it is possible and appropriate, government officials will offer video presentations instead of in person appearances. Sort of like the Grammy’s, we watch and Tweet if we like a song or a presentation.
Last week I attended the National Space Symposium (NSS) in Colorado Springs. This is a meeting with a Department of Defense focus. Milspace or military space is a big part of the agenda at this conference. As you may know, the Air Force Academy and Peterson Air Force base are close to Colorado Springs. Peterson Air Force base houses the 21st Space Wing, the Air Force Space Command, the US Space Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). Our sovereign space agency partners from the Canadian, Japanese, European and Korean Space Agencies were in attendance. Absolutely no NASA people were permitted to attend, as this conference was singled out as a disallowed conference. The Chinese have no such travel restrictions and they were in attendance. As this was a local conference for the Air Force attendance was permitted for Flag officers and cadets from the Academy.
Innovations are in part, a response to a need or a want. Video conferencing has been around since the 60’s. I have watched some well scripted video conferences. But I have never seen anything like I saw this week in Colorado. I attended the Hosted Payloads Alliance meeting as part of the NSS. This is an association helping to decrease costs to our government to send satellites to space by using commercial launch vehicles.
Since no travel was permitted, off site government speakers and attendees were allowed to use NASA headquarters and Air Force two-way video conference facilities. About 100 attendees were in a conference room at the Broadmoor with 2 large speakers in the room, and 3 screens. The Broadmoor Hotel and Conference Center facilities are world-class. The AV team does this conference is the same team I bring to Las Cruces to do the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS). They are very good. I sat down and prepared for a day of interactive two-way video conferencing.
The spirit was willing but the technology was weak. Audio delays made listening difficult, signal distortion was constant. Every time someone spoke off site, there was a loud hum in Colorado. Camera’s cut off a presenter’s head so for an hour we watched a headless body with gesturing arms give a presentation. Goofy barely describes the experience.
In closing, I will suggest in this mandated world of video conferencing, under the category of “how you say it” make sure the head is attached and the tone is not distorted. I believe speaker preparation will take care of the “what”.