AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

Nov/17

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¡Milwaukee Evaluation! Week: Igniting Effective Client Communication on a Large Scale by Levi Roth & Libby Smith

Hello! We are Libby Smith and Levi Roth. We are both Project Managers at the Applied Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. We recently wrapped up work on the largest project of our professional lives. The INTERFACE Project included all 16 Wisconsin Technical Colleges and as you can guess each college had a diverse project team with different communication needs. This 4-year grant required constant communication with project teams on a variety of levels whether it was communicating data requirements, project updates, documentation requests, etc. We learned a lot about effective communication with a large stakeholder community and we want to share some hot tips we have learned with you!

Hot Tips:

  • Webinars and Conference Calls are your friends. With stakeholders in every corner of the state, holding regular meetings virtually was critical to ensuring everyone was on the same page. We met twice yearly face-to-face, but taking the time to communicate information “in-person” via webinars and conference calls helped build relationships and ensured everyone had an opportunity to ask questions about complicated data gathering guidelines. This way we could answer the question for the entire group in a concise manner, plus we were able to record and archive our conversations.
  • FAQs and standardized templates are powerful tools. We quickly realized how important it was to create a standardized way of doing things that is adopted by everyone involved. When working with a variety of stakeholders they may be reporting the same information but collecting it in different ways. Templates were a necessity and FAQ’s cleared up questions quickly. You help alleviate confusion with a common document that helps walk through questions or issues without filling up your email inbox.
  • Build relationships with your clients. This idea may seem obvious, but in our busy schedules can often be overlooked. In conjunction with our regularly scheduled webinars and conference calls, we made it a priority to also meet with our stakeholders at their college twice a year. We felt like these meetings were so crucial to building and maintaining healthy client relationships over the course of the project. It improved buy-in and commitment. Your clients might also begin to view your webinars and conference calls as welcomed constructive conversations instead of nuisances.

These are just a few hot tips we wanted to share to help improve other’s client communications or at the very least, have you start thinking about the level of effective communication you have with your clients. Let us know if you have any additional hot tips for effective communication!

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating ¡Milwaukee Evaluation! Week with our colleagues in the Wisconsin statewide AEA Affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our ¡Milwaukee Evaluation! members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

1 comment

  • Yogi Ho · November 17, 2017 at 5:04 am

    Hi Libby & Levi,

    Thanks for your post. I appreciate the tips you provided about webinars, FAQs and relationships. I am currently taking a course on Program Evaluation at Queens University and creating a Program Evaluation Design in my own context as well. AEA365 has been a great resource throughout the course and it wouldn’t be the same without your contributions.

    I was happy to read about the need for effective communication and building relationships throughout the evaluation process. As a Business & Economics graduate, I have always felt that active communication was a sort of no brainier and that it is always present during evaluations.

    However, from my experience (although not a lot) in education, I find that all the stakeholders are not always a part of the communication. This can lead to confusion and complications in the process of evaluating a program. Overcoming this resistance can be a very challenging task. I will try my best to include this aspect in my evaluation design as well.

    Thanks again!

    Yogi Ho

    Reply

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