Changes are happening, which is undeniable. The complete global economic scenario has undergone a drastic change. This change has, in a big way, affected the communication and interaction scenario too. Be it for business, for education, or for general purposes, virtual interactions have announced its presence in a big way and are here to stay. Although going virtual has its positives, there is and will always be a gap, with regards to the ease and benefits that face-to-face interactions have given us.
Most businesses today are conducted online. When this is so, effective communication becomes even more important. Let’s quickly understand the benefits and challenges of conducting business online.
Few benefits of conducting business virtually
Locations don’t matter anymore. One can conduct business with anyone across the globe on common platforms. One only needs to be conscious of the time gap and schedule meetings accordingly
Larger reach – as distances have practically vanished, one need not constrict doing business to any particular locality, state, or country. You have a choice to go global
You get the benefit of linking the best talent to the project, no matter where their locations
Commuting and travel has reduced, hence stress and pollution have reduced considerably
For businesses, infrastructural costs have reduced considerably
Travel for meetings have reduced enabling better time usage efficiency
Since there is peace of mind and more time, to a large extent, work from home has enhanced productivity and delivery
Few challenges of conducting business virtually
With convenience also come challenges. Some things are just harder virtually. Or, more accurately, you have to just do things differently when you work with a team spread out across the globe.
One to one interactions become difficult, at times obsolete
Communication cannot be to the level that physical interactions offered. Many misunderstandings could arise from poor communication
Lack of clarity and direction and frequent second-guessing due to technical glitches could spoil the interaction, leaving the conversation incomplete or diluted
Ownership and commitment gets diluted (Not by all, but definitely are cases)
Difficulty with delegation and management of projects. Also one cannot notice incompetence
Since there is a lack of physical presence and interaction, people tend to remain aloof and only keep their relation to the work given which results in a lack of empathy and personal connection
Distractions, working under less-than-ideal circumstances, (children disturbing, family members, pets in the house, lack of personal space, etc.)
Few Tips to Make Your Virtual Communication Result Oriented
Although it has its downside, virtual communication can still be impactful, provided we prepare for it, and follow some basic principles.
Preparation If you want to get any work done, especially with virtual meetings and work from home jobs, it is important to prepare for each day in advance. Make a list of what you have to do and what you want to achieve and how you will action it. If possible, share your preparation with other team members, so they are on the same page. This preparation will help you stay focused so you can work, engage, and communicate effectively.
Set-up One of the most important aspects of Virtual Communication is your set-up. It is very important to prepare or make the right space to enable optimal virtual communication. Find a physical space in your home where you can set up your work infrastructure comfortably and with minimal distractions. Enable the right kind of technology and equipment like a laptop or desktop, phone, Wi-Fi connection, stationery, printer, and whatever else you might require on time to time basis. Ensure the lighting is right for work, natural light is the best. Avoid having a light source behind you as it can darken the space and your audience might have difficulty seeing you. Make sure your work area is not too cluttered, as it can be a distraction. Use a comfortable seating and desk area. If you are using AVs extensively, ensure your audio and video set up is optimized since many times we face many issues in these areas during virtual meets. Ensure you test your equipment prior to any call. If you’re not going to be speaking on the call, make sure you are muted. Take notes. Have a diary, pen, or sticky notes handy. Make sure your software is up-to-date. Automatic updates in the middle of a virtual presentation can cause havoc. Silence or turn off notifications on your computer and mobile as these could distract you.
Clarity Ensure your communication gets across clearly with the intended effect. There are ways and means of doing this. Since it is not a physical interaction, the use of hand gestures, facial expressions, and tone of voice plays a vital role. Ensure you are not too close to the screen or far away from it. Understand what distance has to be maintained. Speak clearly and project your voice, but resist the urge to speak too loudly. Before you start or attend any virtual meeting, Sit quietly for a few minutes, take a few deep breaths or meditate for 10 mins, drink a glass of water, and then start. That will give you the added clarity, confidence, and glow to conduct the meeting in an effective manner.
Dress the Part Since you are working from home, one tends to slowly get casual about it. Virtual meetings, office meetings, business meetings are formal affairs and it always helps to dress the part. Wear neutral tones in whites, blues, greens, and browns. A combination attire of single pastel shade or a combination of pastel and dark shades will work well. For e.g. a light green shirt combined with a darker shade trouser, etc. Ensure your face, hair, eyes, teeth are duly clean. A well-kept appearance helps you look professional and helps create a professional atmosphere while doing business. Ensure what you’re wearing is not distracting to your audience. Avoid bold bright patterns and gaudy accessories that may take the audience's attention away from the main conversation.
Value Time Value everyone’s time. Since most are working from home, people tend to take for granted that they have all the time in the world. This becomes even more difficult when the teams or clients are based in different parts of the world and work different hours. It becomes very important to stick to a given time schedule so that we value the other person’s time, understanding that they have other priorities as well. Also, do not just rely on email or message to get meeting schedules across, since it is not necessary that every person will open the email or message and read it. Ensure you also make calls or find ways to get a confirmation for the meeting from relevant participants. This way one can avoid last minutes changes or delays in meetings. It would also help to have common chat groups that involve all group members at the same time. This is often the most efficient way to solve pressing concerns or come to a group consensus over any particular subject.
Ensure that you summarize the main points at the end of each meeting so that it remains with the audience and necessary action is taken. Ask if there are any last-minute questions or points not discussed. Stress on important issues, you might have to repeat some points many times. People remember and retain what they hear often. Virtual meetings have proven to be a boon, especially in times as is the current economic situation and with the need for social distancing. With a little awareness and discipline, a virtual working set-up can help you to do things more efficiently and effectively and can become the future trend of working adopted by many companies to bring about a balance in work culture and finances.