Some years ago – before remote working was a standard ‘thing’ – one of my co-workers used to leave voice messages on Slack and Whatsapp. No one really liked it, and it became a bit of a running joke (albeit one she was aware of). But she persisted.
As trends go, it’s hard to find one with a steeper upward trajectory than voice messaging. Meta has reported that voice memos are the second most popular form of file shared through its Messenger platform after photos. Twitter is responding to the massive increase in demand by adding a voice messaging feature to its platform. And I know that voice notes are now considered a norm for communication in many friendships. As far as work goes, Slack’s already on board, and there’s a rise in the number of pre recorded voice notes to communicate on LinkedIn too.
But it got me wondering about the usefulness of voice notes in organisations.
- Does anyone use them at work?
- Is there a place for them (social team Whatsapp?)
- Is there anything worse that accidently clicking on your own voice note and hearing yourself?
Incidentally, I do actually use voice messaging… but only to capture a thought or an idea for myself as I go through the day. I find it easier to revisit (so maybe I do enjoy the sound of my own voice after all…)
I digress, and VMing never suited the organisations I worked in before, mostly because:
- The team found it hard to find previous messages
- It made extracting key points laborious
- It still felt slightly cringey as a new comms method
- There was a tendency for the notes to run on… and on… as the sender kept adding to his/her note as more thought popped into their head
- What about the fact many people are now working solo? Is there something to be said for voice notes adding a layer of connection to an otherwise email heavy day?
- Does speaking out loud make it easier to explain complex ideas?
- You can’t fault its efficiency (3x faster than typing)
- It’s a bit of a treat (like a little personalised podcast)
I’m reflecting on this as I come round to voice notes / messages as an idea. And I’m intrigued what is it about this audio messaging format that has proved so appealing?
I can certainly see some clear benefits, especially if you’re trying to communicate something sensitive. We all know quick messages fired over WhatsApp or email can be perceived as argumentative or snarky when that wasn’t the intention. Audio messages could be useful if you need to make sure the recipient receives the information in the tone you want them to hear it.
There’s also the idea that whereas a phone call has an immediacy and an urgency that thrusts you into an instant back-and-forth, with a voice note, you can choose when to listen and when to respond. Intimacy of sharing your voice, and hearing the voice of someone else, without the pressure to engage on the spot.
- What lessons can we learn from this vignette?
- What does this teach us about communication?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.