Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Sorting through the online information overload

I had a meeting today to discuss a future business proposal. As I sat with the two women affiliated with the local Women's Business Center, I was surprised once again at how public information can be misinterpreted. This has become an even larger problem with all the searching available through the internet, as one source after another hijacks what is assumed facts and presents it with another meaning.

The most important lesson any consumer can learn is summed up in two Latin words: caveat emptor, which is translated as Buyers Beware. It is normally linked to the purchases of goods and services, but definitely applies to researching online as well. There are missed opportunities when information is not related accurately, and the potential of walking into a purchasing decision we are not fully prepared for, which is why we are always advised to "read the fine print".

My meeting today has taught me not to always take anything I find online as for granted. I also learned the importance of asking for clarification when faced with varying explanations of the same subject.

Other lessons:

- Anything stated on a website can be misconstrued. Call and ask to speak to a professional behind a purchase or service of interest.
- While the option to email a request seems time-saving and helpful, that form of communication can also be misrepresented. Besides, who wants to exchange numerous emails with follow-up questions? Simply requesting a meeting by phone or in person will help clear up many misunderstandings that occur over email.
- Don't take anything presented as facts without asking for sources to consult. Ask plenty of follow-up questions and it's fine if you don't understand something. The purpose of a personal consultation is to help you understand to make wise decisions.
- Be honest about your needs and goals. If you have a budget, state so. If you're not willing to engage in an idea or plan, be firm about that position. Accomplishing whatever it is you are trying to accomplish won't happen unless you are sincere about what you want and where you want to go.
- Advice is not absolute. It is a call for direction to the one or more paths you must take to accomplish your goals. If you require extra help, ask for it. If you're looking to be connected to other professionals, offer your contact info. If you need another meeting, set one up.
- Before you walk out the door, review what was discussed and create an action plan. You will leave knowing precisely what was done and what still needs to be done.

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