Virtual meetings are already the norm for most organisations—they have become an everyday business reality but few of us have adapted our skills to truly master them. Being able to virtually participate in a meeting has some great advantages. However, being able to plan, facilitate and participate in a successful virtual meeting brings a number of challenges.
Much of what is successful in physical meetings is also important in the virtual meeting—perhaps even more so—to avoid misunderstandings and confusion.What happens when our main communication channel, our body language, disappears?
Here are some tips that can help you enhance your communication skills/outcome in your virtual meeting.
- Provide your name/identify yourself when participating
Others may not recognise your voice.
- Clearly establish who is present
Knowing who is participating in a meeting and who is speaking at any one time is critical to a successful meeting. Use names frequently. For meetings using Internet collaboration tools, ensure that each participant is listed
- Keep meetings short
When participating virtually, it is easier to lose attention and start multitasking, answering emails etc. Virtual meetings put higher demands on limiting time.
- Keep participants focused with visuals
Ensure that there is something on the screen to help attendees know the current topic. Between agenda items and presentations, return to the agenda and highlight or otherwise indicate the current topic. (read my colleague Anna’s blog post on how to make your visuals stand out)
- Poll the virtual room often and encourage feedback
Ask for explicit feedback from each participant as topics are discussed. This also ensures constant engagement in the meeting. Check in with virtual attendees by name and if possible ask direct questions (e.g., ‘Anne, do you agree with that last proposal?’).
- Be very explicit about thoughts and feelings
The famous 55%, 38%, 7% rule is based on a study done in 1967 by Dr. Albert Mehrabian, a Professor of Psychology at UCLA stating that communication is based 7% on words, 38% on voice, and 55% on visual impressions.
The fact of the matter is that the exact number is irrelevant. Knowing that communication is specifically 75% or 90% nonverbal (e.g., facial expression) holds no practical applications. The important part is that most communication is nonverbal. In fact, nonverbal behaviour is the most crucial aspect of communication. Virtual meetings require more explicit statements to compensate for lost communication channels.
- Avoid sarcasm and be very careful with humour
Without body language or verbal cues, sarcasm or humour can easily be misinterpreted, especially in a multicultural meeting.
- Be polite
Good manners are especially important as people work to overcome some of the challenges of meeting virtually. Remember that virtual attendees cannot see body language, so you need to be mindful of how attitudes come across without visual cues.
In this post by my colleague Anders, you can get some more tips on how to prepare for your meetings.
Are you interested to know how you can improve your communication skills using virtual, online or offline channels, please contact us.