“Communication is at the very core of our society. That’s what makes us human.” – Jan Koum
Communication makes us human and, as humans, we need to communicate. In the past year, our ability to interact with others has been challenged. Many of us have turned to technology to connect with loved ones, coworkers and clients. Yet, after participating in multiple Zoom meetings and FaceTime calls, we can still feel disconnected.
In fact, according to the Twin Cities Chapter of the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS-TC), the average amount of time many of us are spending in virtual meetings is 6.5 hours a day. With all that time invested in these meetings, it is disappointing to learn that 78 percent of us are dissatisfied with the timing, content and value.
SMPS-TC recently hosted a virtual event titled “Effective Virtual Business Development & Communications.” Presented by Meg Winch, President at Communications Resource Northwest, the meeting focused on how to become better communicators in a virtual world. Meg offered tips for getting started. These include:
Be present and mindful
When we are checking our phones or reading emails during a meeting, we are telling those on the other end that they are not important. Turn off whatever else you’re working on. Look into the lens, particularly when speaking, and remind yourself that this is the most important thing you are doing in the moment. If everyone in the meeting is fully engaged, you will feel like you are in the same room.
Write key points you want to cover and reminders (e.g., to look into the lens and smile) on sticky notes. Place these notes above the camera lens on your laptop to keep your eyes looking in the direction of the camera.
Improve the video experience
Turn off other programs like Outlook to improve the experience by reducing latency (how much time it takes to send data from one computer to another). High latency can result in choppy audio and frozen screens.
Can you hear me?
Practice with your device microphone to be sure the volume is at the right level and to gauge how you come across. Be intentional in HOW you speak. Are you speaking too slowly or too fast? Are you enunciating your words and adding warmth and emotion to your voice?
Don’t wing it!
Plan, prepare and practice. We have a lot on our plates which makes it difficult to invest the time and effort into planning and preparing your meetings. However, when you wing it, your attendees are more likely to feel disengaged and leave the meeting questioning its value. Test your technology beforehand, define and practice transitions between speakers, develop your visuals from the perspective of your virtual audience and have a “plan B” in place.
The more complex the meeting, the greater your time spent preparing should be. In fact, planning and prep time should be doubled when you have multiple speakers or facilitators on the agenda.
Brainstorming in a virtual world
Brainstorming has always been an effective way to generate ideas and solve problems and it can be equally effective on a virtual level. Online collaborative whiteboard platforms are available not only for brainstorming but for planning and managing workflows as well. Some of the more popular tools employ digital sticky notes that are added to the whiteboard as people submit their ideas via the chat tool.
The bottom line
Virtual communications have changed the way we do business. But imagine how we would have managed over the past year without the technology tools that we are using today. With a bit of effort, we can use these tools to be even better communicators.
By leveraging your technology tools and by looking at every aspect of your meeting—from planning to executing—through the eyes of your audience, you will increase their satisfaction, add value to their experience and encourage them to come back for more.