With the beginning of the New Year, it’s the perfect time to address the virtual communication mistakes that have become common with so many of us working virtually this past year.
Here are 3 of the most common mistakes when communicating virtually, and what you can do to overcome them:
Not being more “human” in virtual meetings
To effectively communicate virtually, it’s crucial for your true and authentic self to come across. You need to be real and let your personality shine through. During this time of physical distancing, the need for human connection is more important than ever.
Simple things like making eye contact with the camera will allow others to feel like they are getting direct eye contact from you, creating a sense of connection. Bring your energy: stand up, use gestures and voice inflection. Also, don’t forget to pause in order to eliminate those distracting filler words. Leverage all the communication skills you would normally use in person to help project your authentic self. Be real. By just being yourself, you’ll come across as more relaxed, confident and credible.
Not having a back-up plan
As we’ve all experienced, there are multiple points of failure in the virtual world: computers, internet access and power just to name a few. Now there are the additional variables involved in working virtually from home, whether it’s the dog barking, limited internet bandwidth with multiple household members online in virtual meetings or home-schooling, and the doorbell ringing when deliveries arrive.
While there’s greater understanding and empathy right now around the challenges of working from home, often we’re in high-stakes virtual meetings. In these situations, it’s always best to have a back-up plan. Here are some tips for when you’re leading a high-profile virtual event. To start, it’s ideal to have a back-up computer – in case your primary computer fails for any reason. For virtual deliveries, our Mandel trainers and coaches always connect via a second computer, just in case it’s needed.
Have the batteries on all your devices charged, in case of a power outage. Then, even if your power goes out for any reason, your devices will still function for a period of time. We also recommend having an alternate internet source. For example, the ability to use your cell phone as a “hot spot” and still be connected could save the day. For high-stakes virtual meetings and online events, we recommend the use of a virtual meeting producer. If your power does go out and your back up internet isn’t working, a producer can keep things moving along, and you only need to dial in with the audio to stay engaged.
At Mandel, we like to say, be overly prepared to be overly flexible.
Not having sufficient interaction
When communicating virtually, the burden is on you to create interaction with the meeting participants. If you’re not engaging people, they’re sure to multi-task. Here are some best practices to drive interaction and engagement – ask questions and ask for input.
You can do this over the audio or by using the many tools available on your virtual platform of choice. For example, by simply asking people to give you a green check, a red X or a raised hand, you get a quick visual picture of who is tracking with you and who might need more of an explanation.
Another way to keep people engaged is through the chat panel. To get everyone involved simultaneously, invite people to type their answers to a question in chat. The chat panel is also an easy way to capture what others have stated in case you need it for future use.
Plan your interactions ahead of time and space them out to avoid idle time, thereby discouraging participants from focusing on other things for too long. By planning for interaction in advance, you’ll dramatically increase the chances of your meeting participants staying engaged.
For many of us, virtual communications are likely to dominate our work in 2021. By avoiding these 3 virtual communication mistakes, you’ll improve your virtual presence and the quality of all your virtual interactions.