How Remote Workers Can Fine-Tune Their Virtual Communication Skills
Sharpen your virtual communication skills in the days of remote work by implementing simple yet effective tips to put across your point with greater impact.
“Virtual Reality is a new communication platform. By feeling truly present, you can share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life. Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures.”- Mark Zuckerberg
COVID-19 needs no introduction and so does the remote work.
The latter has become a new normal after turbulent 2020 that saw millions of organizations and professionals embrace WFH (work from home) without any planning or prior experience of working remotely (exceptions are always there).
I had my first video conferencing experience on Zoom quite a while back, and it was good but not excellent. While video and audio quality was excellent, I felt that some of the participants were still hesitant to put forth their ideas/feedback. They looked emotionless, carrying that poker-faced look, which made them look aloof.
And these were the same people who put their point across with a crystal-clear mind, positive body language, and better command over their language when we interacted in person. So, what happened to them when they had to do the same thing virtually?
I talked to them over the phone to know why they did not appear proactive during the virtual meeting and they said that they couldn’t switch from in-person, real-world meetings to online meetings smoothly.
They assumed the transition to be an easy and seamless process, which didn’t happen.
Real-word communication and virtual communication have different dynamics. Not all rules of the former can be carried forward to the latter. So, we need to adjust/change our approach, and hone our communication skills in the digital world.
I have compiled a list of a few effective techniques for those who’re still not putting their best foot forward when it comes to virtual communication. With little effort, you can dramatically change the way you communicate virtually.
Read on to know more about it.
1. Look At The Camera!
Can you remember how many times you’ve been in a video conference where some participants appeared to be looking somewhere else other than towards the camera? I’m sure you can clearly remember this situation occurring more than once.
It could be that you’ve been the culprit of making the same mistake too!
Relax, it can happen to all of us, not a big deal. You can so easily be mistaken for not paying attention even when you actually are. Take a cue out of TV anchors and make sure you’re looking at the camera during virtual meetings.
You can practice this by scheduling video calls with your friends and asking them to give their feedback regarding your actions on the camera.
2. Dress Sensibly
Remote work is often seen as an alternative to traditional, in-office working where you’re bound to wear formal office attire. While that’s true but you still need to dress appropriately, at least when you’re on a video call with team members and clients.
Many people tend to take things too casually. I’ve seen people attending video calls with sleeveless, rockstar t-shirts, shorts, and bandana! This laidback approach does not always work! Put on a clean, well-ironed pair of clothes, comb your hair, trim or shave your facial hair. In other words, look like a pro that cares about work meetings.
3. Pay Attention To Your Background
Look at that paint peeling from the wall, a plethora of cluttered paperwork scattered all over the desk, or that’s one unkempt living room. As much as you notice other users’ messy background settings (and ridicule it), remember that your background while on a video call also says a lot about you. It’s not only about dressing up in an Armani suit!
Make sure that your surroundings are well-lit, organized, clean, and show you as a dedicated professional who means business, whether working in the office or from the home. Your neatly painted wall with well-placed drawings or photographs can serve as an ideal background during video conferencing.
Using a virtual background app, you can use customized backgrounds during your virtual meetings.
4. Invest In Good Quality Audio And Video Equipment
If you’re participating in a virtual meeting on your desktop/laptop then you must be seen and heard clearly. If you are not clearly audible and visible, your contribution to the virtual meeting is literally, zero. One sure way of doing that is by investing in tools like high-resolution webcams and microphones.
You can do online research to find out what are some of the best webcams and microphones available that can meet your needs. Don’t forget to use a good pair of headphones/earless wire buds and lighting to make your video meeting worth it.
5. Use Different Virtual Communication Tools
You should designate specific virtual communication tools for conveying different types of communication. While video and audio calls have become an inevitable part of remote work culture, not all occasions demand the use of both these mediums. You are not supposed to use Zoom for sending and receiving direct messages!
Whether you have a quick question to ask or have something to discuss with your colleagues, using a straightforward team chat application makes it easy for you to connect with the recipients within seconds. You can attach files, documents, and make your chat more expressive by adding emojis.
When you’ve simple audio calls to make, using Google Hangouts, Slack, or Twitter can help you stay connected with your team. And don’t forget good old emails either!
6. Use An All-In-One Project Management And Team Collaboration Tool
How does using a good PM tool help to improve your virtual communication skill, you must be thinking. Frequent meetings can be disruptive to workflow and your team’s productivity. As a manager, you are not required to hold regular meetings or micromanage to keep your team accountable.
Using feature-rich project management and team collaboration software can help you have a bird’s eye view of all your tasks and what every team member is up to. All your team members can be on the same page, collaborate across tasks and projects, and stay updated regarding the latest developments without constant check-in meetings.
7. Be Empathic
Remote working can make your employees or team members feel isolated without in-person meetings and interactions with colleagues. Human beings are social creatures who want to be understood and listened to. As a responsible team member, you should contribute efforts to keep the pack together (emotionally).
Starting a virtual meeting with a personal note can be a great way to promote team bonding. Ask them how they are doing, how their family members are doing, schedule virtual coffee chat sessions for purely non-work-related discussions to build rapport and strengthen relationships.
Closely-knit teams have proven to be more motivated, productive, and happier in seeing each other succeed.
8. Use Noise-Canceling Headphones
Hearing a pet dog barking out loud, family members talking or an infant crying in the background while you’re on a video call can disturb all those who are participating in a virtual meeting. No one likes to hear loud distracting noises in the background, especially when conversations are work-centric. Moreover, these background noises can make you look unprofessional.
To keep background noises at bay, you can use good quality noise-canceling headphones, like Bose, Sony, and Sennheiser give you hearing protection and peace of mind. Noise-canceling headphones reduce unwanted ambient sounds, and allow you to maintain your focus on virtual meetings.
9. Practice Soft Skills
And before wrapping up this blog, the most important thing any team manager should remember is to be forgiving (sometimes). There are days when some of your team members would fail to meet deadlines and deliver work as per the project’s requirements. Your team members are human, have their families and personal life, they can fall ill or feel bad due to more reasons than one.
While work remains a foremost priority for any organization, being unforgiving on employees, without understanding their situation, will only demoralize them further. Cut your team members some slack and practice soft skills that will help them deal through tough, stressful situations to see better days at work.
Remote work is here to stay and for long. This means that virtual communication will continue to be the fulcrum around which remote teams will continue to function together. You would need to look at virtual communication in a different way than you look at in-person meetings in order to be an attentive listener and commanding speaker.
I hope that the aforementioned nine tips will help you in improving your virtual communication skills, employee engagement, and emotionally connect better with the rest of your team to achieve organizational goals collectively.