You wouldn’t tell your child, parent, or best friend, “Hey, a phone call is just as good right?” Yes, we video chat with our children or loved ones when on the road, and we’re acutely aware that it’s not the same as being home with them. Honestly, work conversations are no different.
Let’s stop casually and unintentionally signing into a virtual meeting assuming it’s simply the same meeting but we’re not in the same room. This is misguided and yet it happens every day. What a waste of time and effort.
The demands of effective virtual communication, whether phone or video, beg for us to step out of the habits of in-person meetings. We need to bravely show up on video with full voices, fully present, tapping into the extra energy that is necessary — really questioning what does and doesn’t work on the virtual platform.
Yes, the virtual platform offers helpful variations for our work communication landscape and it also offers challenges that need to be considered in assessing what is different from in-person. We need to embrace what works well and explore how to adapt to the more troubling differences.
There are numerous virtual scenarios between phone, video, shared presentations and desktops on a variety of different platforms. Add to that the various configurations of people who are on the calls: groups in one room connecting to a group in a different location; some groups on video with individuals on phones from a variety of locations; some on video with some on phone with some live in a room together; etc. Often we add in a variety of time zones, cultures and languages. What could possibly go wrong?
We know all this about our virtual connections and sometimes still seem surprised that it’s a challenge. Or we don’t have time to even think about it as we run from one meeting to the next, and honestly, the virtual platform is simply convenient and necessary.
Four quick points to up your virtual efficiency:
1. Bravely risk seeming too engaged.
- Without the natural tendency to feed off of each other’s energy when in-person, the virtual requires extra energy to be pumped into the interactions.
- Lack of extra vocal energy can be interpreted as not interested or bored.
- When on camera, the flat facial expression invites interpretations that are often off base from how we feel.
2. Bravely say less and don’t apologize.
- You need to be succinct.
- People are less patient with your verbal processing.
- Stop apologizing (unless you hurt someone) – Yes, though seemingly polite, apologizing takes up precious time and we assume you feel badly for being late, having trouble unmuting, connecting to a point that was a few beats back, losing connection and getting back on, etc.
- Start talking. Share your information. Dive in, don’t use too much runway to get to your point.
3. Bravely own the awkward.™
We can’t emphasize this enough. Bravely be okay feeling uncomfortable. Yes, it’s like a middle school dance or really any event from our pre-teen years. We step on each other’s toes – which in this case is someone else speaking.
- The rhythm is off – because we have different connection speeds.
- We don’t know where to look – the camera, the box with your video, at your notes.
- We feel guilty when we get distracted – especially while on the phone.
- Awkward doesn’t mean lack of confidence or competence.
4. Be aware of your background.
It’s impacting the message you’re conveying. Granted we often can’t control our background choice and if we can adjust our camera, even a bit, it will make a difference. Keep in mind:
- Other folks working behind you is not necessarily the worst. If they are laughing and joking – less helpful.
- Outside trees or scenery can be peaceful. But if too vacation oriented, this can send the wrong message.
- Home is fine – simply be aware bookcases and art vs. kitchen sink or even a nicely made bed.
- Careful of lighting – your face needs to be lit.
Question the assumed rules that we use in-person. Do they work virtually? What is different? And bravely and boldly lead our virtual meetings knowing it can be uncomfortable. Our teammates and clients will thank us!