Should it be an email, text, or meeting?

Team members deciding which communication channel is best suited.

With so many communication channels to choose from, we usually communicate in whatever way is most convenient to us at the time. This however, is often a formula for creating possible misunderstandings, even when we have the best of intentions.

If you’ve opted for email or text when tone and context are important, you risk your recipient misinterpreting your message. On the other hand, calling a colleague or sending a voice note when communicating important decisions or dates is likely to result in a miscommunication or an inaccurate recollection of sorts.

We’ve included some of the most frequently used communication channels below and ranked these from higher to lower levels, based on the complexity and type of message you’re wanting to relay.  

Face-to-Face Meetings / Gatherings

In-person conversations are best for navigating interpersonal or complex topics, where body language and tone are key in successfully communicating and interpreting a message.

Outlined below are examples of when it should be an in-person conversation or team gathering:

One-on-One ConversationsTeam Gatherings
Sharing constructive feedback with a team member.Brainstorming sessions, where team members can build from one another’s ideas.
Resolving conflict.Strengthening or repairing connections
amongst team members.
   Sharing important news around:
o   Retirement
o   Resignation / Career aspirations
o   Leave of absence.

Virtual Meetings / Gatherings

When an in-person conversation isn’t possible due to geographical location, or if the delivery of a message is of a time-sensitive nature where tone and context is important, a virtual meeting with camera’s switched on should be considered. Body language however can be challenging to interpret in virtual settings.

Below are examples of when it can be a virtual meeting or team gathering:

  • Collaborative work on task-based goals e.g., updating a board or briefing team members.
  • System-or software walkthroughs.
  • Event or project planning.

Phone Call

Phone calls are ideal when you need to quickly gather or relay information. While phone calls were the norm in the past, this channel is quickly fading away as a preferred method of communication.

Here are examples of when it’s appropriate to call:

  • Urgent heads-up or requiring feedback.
  • To change, cancel or confirm an appointment, especially if it is imminent.
  • If you have tried to address the issue by mail, but there has been a misunderstanding.


Emails are standard protocol as a means of relaying messages; however, a fair bit of skill, structure and wordsmithing is required to land a message effectively and accurately. Emails are also only appropriate for relaying certain types of messages.

Outlined below are recommendations for when email should be used:

  • Formally communicating decisions or approvals.
  • Confirm or schedule appointments.
  • Sharing formal documents.
  • Documenting important conversations / expectations after an in-person conversation.
  • Company-wide announcements or news that require all team members to receive the same message at the same time.
  • Outlining steps or instructions.

Text / Instant Message

Texting is an easy and friendly way of getting in contact, whether you’re letting a colleague know you loved the conversation you had over lunch, or telling a team member that you’re stuck in traffic and will be 10 minutes late for a meeting.

Read on for recommendations for when text or instant messages should be used:

  • Sharing noncritical thoughts, questions, or updates.
  • Brief, general check-ins.
  • General reminders and quick relays of useful information.

Voice Notes

Voice notes are a quick and easy way to share an update, especially if you’re on-the-road or running in between meetings. While tone and context can be conveyed in your note, this channel of communication requires intense active listening skills from the recipient. This channel of communication should also be followed up with an email as voice notes can be difficult to cite if needed in future. Another consideration is that voice notes can be hard to discreetly send if working from an open-plan office or coffee shop.

Outlined below are recommendations for when voice notes should be used:

  • Sharing a personalised message in which you want to convey tone or humour.
  • To relay important updates or urgent information if the recipient is not able to access email or text message (e.g., they are driving and on a hands-free device).

Selecting the right channel to communicate is as important as the message you intend to deliver as it helps relay what is urgent versus important. The next time you’re trying to decide on a channel of communication, consider which of the methods above will best help you to reach your goals. While emails and WhatsApp’s have their place, knowing when to pick up the phone, jump on a video call, or bring your team together in person can transform the way you communicate at work and in life in general.