17 December 2020 - "Virtual Engagement Skills for Online Communication"
Prepping for the New Normal
For our final webinar of 2020, we invited digital communications expert Luba Fateeva to teach us how to navigate the new normal of business taking place primarily through online communication using services such as Zoom, WebEx, FaceTime, and others. We say "new normal" because, as Luba discussed during the webinar, even when (hopefully) the pandemic has been brought under control, she anticipates that this form of digital communication in business will not be going away. In fact, it has likely become and will remain entrenched due to the fact that it is an inexpensive, fast, and efficient form of communication that is convenient for organizations, employees, and clients alike. But with this new normal we must look critically once again at public speaking skills because in a way, with a camera in the faces of all participants, each virtual meeting becomes a presentation for all involved.
First, it's important to consider the most important nuts-and-bolt issue in digital communications: technology. Whether it's a weekly meeting, a presentation, or a job interview, it's important to be very familiar with the application being used (Zoom, WebEx, etc.) because technology issues that cannot be fixed quickly are not only embarrassing, they can be a distraction for all participants. (Remember the "I am not a cat" video?) So if you're planning on giving a PowerPoint presentation through screen sharing, changing host permissions for others, etc., you must know how to do these things before your calls. Good lighting is also an important consideration and something that most people neglect. Natural light is preferred, but if that isn't possible, make sure to have great lighting around you but not directly on you or the camera.
But of course, communication is key. Luba told our attendees that there are 110 communication skills, an idea developed by communications expert David Phillips. (See graphic above.) Do we have to learn all 110 skills to be effective digital communicators? Probably not, but there are a few important skills that should be considered and practiced.
The first, according to Luba, is image. It may not seem intuitive considering that humans are language-oriented, but 60 percent of all communication amongst people is transmitted through the visual. This is why digital content developers focus on images and videos that are highly engaging; for example, a blog post with photos and videos will get more views and clicks than one that only consists of text. People also make judgments based on visual cues because we tend to see others before speaking to others. First impressions count, and most people make judgments about a person based on how they look, so it is important to look your best. Despite the fact that most of us are at home during online interactions nowadays, ratty clothes or unkempt hair are as much of a faux pas in business contexts as they would be in person.
Body language is also important because body language is also visual. It is even more important to use effective body language in digital communications because the people with whom you speak will have a much more limited view of you than they would in person. Open body language is key, so crossed arms, bored looks, yawning, and lack of eye contact with the camera are not effective. Make eye contact with the camera as you would another person, have strong posture, and utilize your hands for functional gestures. These are gestures that have a purpose and are synced with what you are talking about. (For example, bringing your hand up as you discuss an increase or enlargement and down when you discuss a decrease or diminishment.)
The next important consideration is sound and voice. As in in-person presentations and communications, the pace and volume of your voice, as well as making sure you utilize tone (as opposed to being monotone) and emphasize in important points with emotion are all important considerations. But technology can make this tricky; what do you do about background noise or internet issues? There will always be issues out of out control; the most important thing is to prepare as much as you can. Part of this preparation includes investing in an excellent microphone or headset. Luba could not stress enough how important it is to set yourself up for vocal success by using high quality headsets.
Finally, it may be surprising, but when it comes to digital communications, content is actually not as important as image or voice. One reason for this is that content is content; the content of a presentation, meeting, or interview is not likely to change much whether it's in person or over Zoom. It's still important to make sure that your content has a strong purpose, an effective structure, and takeaway messages. But the trick is to make sure that you devote time to the preparation of image and voice as well.
We want to thank Luba for taking the time to go over these important digital communication skills with us, and we look forward to another webinar by her in the future!
About the Presenter
Luba Fateeva is a digital communications expert currently working for The Hague Business Agency as a consultant on digital transformation. Recently, Luba has also brought her skills to coaching in order to share her more than 10 years of corporate experience in order to help others succeed. She has insight into current market trends and knowledge of online communication best practices, as well as an understanding of the needs of our expat community.
With online communication rapidly evolving, she helps people to find new ways to adapt to the new reality, learn new tools, and master new skills. Her goal is to help people in business and beyond learn what online communication skills are, what is expected from by potential employers, clients, and colleagues, and how to avoid the most common mistakes we make when communicating online.