So many people think that working remote opens up the doors to more freedom and flexibility. While this is definitely an upside of not commuting to an office during rush hour every day, a remote operation comes with its own obstacles. For those people and industries that specifically rely on face-to-face interactions, one of the biggest challenges is how to communicate effectively on video conferences that replace traditional meetings.
If you haven’t given much thought on how your communication changes with devices, or perhaps think your communication is already on point, now’s the time to do a quick audit to ensure your remote communication is clear and productive.
The Digital Communication Revolution
How we communicate is evolving. The impact brought on by the digital era is so vast that it has been compared to the invention of the printing press. We speak more in phrases or bullet points than full sentences now, and that can lead to more misunderstandings in what we hear. And this is when we are in the same place. Factor in remote collaboration and the challenges abound.
In a working remote environment, such as we’ve all found ourselves for the last several months and the foreseeable future, we’ve stepped up all digital communication as we’ve had to eliminate personal interaction.
This is not a bad thing. For some people, digital communication may even be better and more productive than in-person communication. Research on virtual reality shows that communicating over a screen actually creates better opportunities for introverted individuals to speak up as they are less shy or inhibited than they would be in a group of people. Text-based communication especially makes physical appearance and interpersonal skills less important than true content.
Although emails and messaging give more equal power and are undoubtedly convenient, they do lack the body language and pacing of a normal conversation, and are thus left open to interpretation. Misinterpretation hurts productivity and your bottom line.
Communicate Effectively on Video and It’s Almost Like Being Face-to-Face
Of all the digital communication avenues, video conferencing is the most ideal for replacing face-to-face interactions. You can communicate effectively on video by establishing a rapport, showing emotion and empathizing.
While the benefits of video conferencing are clear, there are certainly some pitfalls to avoid. To make the most of this medium, keep these dos and don’ts in mind.
- First things first: make sure you can be seen and heard. Test your technology before the meeting starts to avoid the time suck of everyone adjusting settings while “live.”
- Keep your personality. Use the same facial expressions and hand gestures you would in a face-to-face meeting. This lends to your empathy and authenticity.
- Take advantage of the screen sharing feature in apps like Zoom. All participants can look at the same thing at the same time, ensuring everyone is on the same page. This pushes you towards enhanced, stronger collaboration.
- Consider the webinar function. As a host, you can better control a multi-participant experience through a webinar (rather than a meeting) by muting participant mics and encouraging them to type questions or “raise a hand” when they would like to chime in. This eliminates people talking on top of each other and inefficient tangents.
- Establish guidelines and etiquette. Will everyone be on camera, or will you use the audio and screen sharing functions only? Who should be prepared to share a screen? What are the best (and not ideal) times for conferences? How will you follow up on topics discussed?
Having guidelines will not only help communicate effectively on video, but also help participants feel heard and prepared.
- Dedicate your attention to the video conference and don’t forget you are on camera; yawns and bored looks will be noticed. Don’t look at your other screen or phone while someone else is speaking. And if you are typing notes during the meeting, keep yourself muted until you are ready to speak.
- If you need to take care of something during the meeting, don’t forget to turn your camera off and make sure you are muted before you step away. Background noises can not only be distracting for you, but they can affect the entire meeting.
- Don’t make a private meeting public by sharing the link on social/public platforms. Do use a password and only send the link to invited participants. Don’t be a victim of zoombombing!
- When there’s the possibility of screen sharing, don’t have confidential or proprietary information on your screen. This includes the background, Internet tabs or home screen icons.
- It’s better to be too clear than practice brevity that not everyone understands. Don’t assume everyone on the conference knows abbreviations and other shorthand.
Another big DO that we at Stableford have implemented is to remember that you can be seen and dress for the meeting. Keeping to a business or business casual attire (whichever you would adhere to in a face-to-face meeting) signals to your client, prospect or vendor that the call is business and you are taking it seriously. And just as in a regular meeting, err on the side of professional to avoid the mistake of being too casual.
Working Remote Together – Embrace (and Commiserate in) the Challenge
Many psychologists are concerned about the effects of solitude with the absence of social interactions during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent quarantine. Video conferences can actually help tackle those feelings of isolation that may have ramped up.
While not seemingly professional in nature, chatting about non-work related things and commiserating in the coronavirus challenge can help fill the social gap, according to Durham University’s Dr. Thuy-vy Nguyen. And that helps with overall mental well-being, as well as team bonding.
Although some remote working is temporary, there are plenty of industries and companies (including Stableford) that were working remotely long before and plan to continue indefinitely. In fact, the U.S. Patent Office implemented a “work from anywhere” policy in 2011. And there is a lot to be learned from companies that spearheaded some productivity tricks along the way.
For example, a manager at the U.S. Patent Office hosted weekly lunches for remote workers. She would order the same pizza and have it delivered at the same time to each of her team members, then they would enjoy it together via video conference. A unique solution to bond a team that is physically scattered.
Creative, forward-thinking solutions such as this are definitely part of how to communicate effectively on video or in a remote environment.
What Do You Think?
For the business owners, does this spark any ideas? We’d love to hear your thoughts and strategies, and of course, we’re here to commiserate in the challenges. Just keep in mind that it’s all driving us to be better prepared for whatever the future may hold. Contact us online or call 480.493.2300.