Guest post by Richard Fendler
Communicating virtually rather than face-to-face has become a necessity for plenty of people in the past year, and yet this transition is tricky to handle smoothly, with lots of hurdles to vault and pitfalls to avoid.
If you feel like your virtual meetings and events could do with some improvements, but you don’t know where to start, here are a few handy tips that should make a positive difference.
Mix things up with elements of entertainment
Virtual communication brings a lot of baggage with it, chief amongst which is the increased intensity of the experience compared with conversations that take place IRL.
Hosts and participants alike can feel the pressure if there is not enough structure to an online get-together, or indeed if it is all about business without leaving any room for fun and frolics.
This is where making your virtual event interesting by adding an entertainment element to the equation can be a step in the right direction. Whether you are just chatting with friends and family, or running a commercial conference entirely on a web-base meeting platform, you can lighten the mood and avoid the atmosphere becoming stagnant with a well-timed entertainment injection.
From themed quizzes and happy hours to tarot readings and origami sessions, there are so many different things you can do during virtual events to spice things up. Just make sure you choose something that is appropriate for the audience in question, and plan in advance to ensure that they have access to any items they might need to participate fully.
Learn to use tools effectively
There is nothing worse than being in the middle of a virtual event for which you are responsible, and realizing that you do not know how to orchestrate a central part of proceedings. Likewise if you come up against a problem while in the thick of it, and you do not have a clue how to resolve it, it can quickly spiral into an administrative disaster.
This conundrum can be compounded if you are using more than one software solution simultaneously, or you are migrating from a particular platform which you are familiar with to one that you have not harnessed before.
Once again, being properly prepared is the answer here. Rather than assuming that you can get the hang of things on the fly, aim to experiment and practice with the software and hardware needed to communicate virtually, so that any nasty surprises can be quashed quickly. This will stand you in good stead for professional and social engagements alike.
Do not rely on just one method of communicating
As discussed earlier, virtual meetings that use voice and video can be a challenging experience in their own right, and while certain people have the ability to thrive in this environment, others will be less able to adapt adequately to this brave new world of communication.
For this reason, it is necessary for managers to make sure that they check in with team members via other means, whether that might be an email catch-up, and instant message to check on progress, a phone call or a personal video call in which no other parties are participating.
There are lots of balls to keep in the air when you are stewarding teams virtually, and it is unhelpful to assume that everyone is satisfied simply because there have been no issues raised during whole team get-togethers.
Set goals & manage expectations
Having goals to aim for is always important in a business context, and it is especially impactful if you are communicating virtually rather than predominantly being able to hold meetings in the same physical space.
Individual and team goals being established, understood and strived for will give people purpose, even if they are having to work remotely, without the same access to colleagues and managers as they might normally expect to have.
It is also worth being honest about all of the challenges that come with virtual communication, highlighting these for employees and demonstrating that you are taking them into account. This will foster trust and understanding, boost engagement and also lessen some of the pressure they might be feeling at the moment.
Listen to feedback and make changes
Finally, it is essential to be open to hearing what others have to say about the state of play regarding your virtual communication, so that you can use this feedback to inform any decisions you take and changes you make going forward.
There is always room for improvement, and you may not be able to see the problems without others highlighting them, so having an open door policy is a swift and efficient way to resolve issues. Time and experience will help you to up your virtual communication game, and there is no shame in getting help from those around you.