Virtual communication – Part 4: making it interactive
In our COVID 19 world, virtual communications have never been more important than right now. This could be informally with friends and family or, increasingly, in our business context. What is certain, when we return to ‘normal’, it will not be the ‘normal’ that we were used to. The seismic shock that we are experiencing will shape the future. It will never be the same again.
On that sobering thought, we all need to learn to use the virtual context in a way that helps, not hinders our communication.
In this series of articles, I look at some of the ‘quick wins’ – simple things that you can do to significantly improve the way you come across when communicating through the ‘little screen’.
Making it interactive
If you ask those regularly attending Virtual Meetings to rate them, it is rare that the response is particularly positive. Most experiences talk of dull, one-way events that seem to be centred around a presentation. This itself is poorly constructed, difficult to follow and often difficult to read on the ‘small screen’.
If this is most people’s experience, what can you do to take responsibility for that and make sure that your Virtual Meetings are scoring higher?
In the previous three episodes of this series, we concentrated on how you can use “YOU” more effectively as a communicator. If you have been able to try some of the techniques already, you will have started to see a difference in the way that your audiences are responding. If you have achieved that, it’s a great start!
However, picking up on the criticism levelled above…the fact that most virtual meetings are “dull, one-way events that seem to be centred around a presentation”, think about what you can do to change that.
Here is 1 top tip (there are many more! Watch out for my next article) with ideas that will make your meetings FAR more engaging. The techniques will vary, depending on the purpose of your meeting, but if you make it your ‘golden rule’ to ensure that your meetings are interactive in some way, these techniques will transform the quality of your time in front of the screen.
Use the technology to interact.
Depending on the platform you are using, you have a wealth of tools available to drive interaction, including:
Video. Yes, I know. Video. It is amazing how many people resist switching on their video, because ‘they don’t like to be seen’. COME ON…you are in a meeting. You wouldn’t sit in the cupboard in the meeting room if you were physically present. The video is one of the most important elements of running virtual meetings, and once people are used to it, they never look back.
Microphone. Sounds obvious, right? Hearing what people have to say adds so much richness to the meeting and bringing them in at key moments is vital for full engagement. Plan how you are going to manage this (see later) so that a range of participants are involved. Remember, muting microphones when not needed, improves the listening experience for everyone and avoids unnecessary noisy distractions (kids, vacuum cleaners, doors slamming in the background, cars passing by open windows).
Messaging (all and individually). Using the ‘chat’ function of your chosen platform is an easy and quick way for people to communicate. You are able to see your feed on the screen and can respond to questions or responses that you ask for. Watch out, it is also easy for you to get de-railed by surprising comments. When explaining its use, be sure to let people know that they can choose to send a private message to an individual in the group, or the whole group at once…they will want to be careful that they don’t mix these up.
Polls. Some platforms allow you to use ‘polling’ as a way of capturing opinion quickly. This is particularly useful when running webinars with large numbers of participants.
Break out rooms. Again, certain platforms allow you to create ‘break out’ rooms where you assign particular participants to specific groups for them to work on tasks away from the whole group. This is very useful where you are working on project tasks and seek to get unique input from multiple groups at the same time.
Whiteboard. Some platforms have this functionality, for example, when using WebEx participants can annotate or comment on the slides that are being shared – really useful of you want to engage in a different way, or to visually represent opinion about a particular topic.
Quizzes. A great way of engaging people – used in conjunction with polling and the whiteboard functions, this can be especially powerful.
Clean crisp presentations shared only when needed. Slides that you share will need to work even harder than if you are face-to-face. Remember this simple fact: People will not be able to listen to you if they are reading a slide. The energy and engagement will drop sharply if you try this. This means that your slides MUST be easy to digest, with key messages, clear to understand. No sentences, minimal data, and building elements to help you communicate your message. Watch this video to see what I mean!
In the next instalment, we will look at a few more ‘golden rules’ to ensure that your meetings are interactive in some way. These techniques will transform the quality of your time in front of the screen.
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