With an uprise of remote working - communicating effectively online is a highly desirable skill. The extra separation and working to connect online foster a faster relay time but also allows much more room for miscommunication.
Once we eradicate so many non-verbal cues the nuances of communication can feel all that much harder to grasp, leaving us scrambling to get teamwork to the same levels of effectiveness as in an in-person setting.
Here at Workshopper, we’re firm believers in maximizing the perks of whatever is thrown at us and resolving the pitfalls with the easiest and strongest tactics.
So if you’re one to steer away from the emailing and phone calls until you can have that face-to-face talk, look no further, we have everything to get you acing meetings and leading teams with clarity and cohesiveness. Now let’s get cracking down on how exactly you can bring your remote communication A-game.
1. Master your own thought process
First things first, how can you expect anyone else to know what you’re talking about if you don’t fully comprehend it yourself?
Ever heard that phrase, “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, then you don’t understand it yourself”?
While it might not always be the case the basic premise is worth putting into practice where possible. Applying this logic to everything you want to convey will give you a good idea of where the pitfalls are in what you are trying to explain. The best way to work out how you can make your communication simple, concise and effective is by working out where your words and thoughts become complex and work on them.
While complexity might make your points sound intelligent or give an illusion of importance, retaining complexity will almost always be counterproductive. Always aim for clear, simple expressions so all recipients understand you and nothing is left for your team to interpret.
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2. Respect words and their connotations
Having the right vocabulary is crucial to strong communication.
A lack of being able to pinpoint your own thoughts with the correct terms can lead to a lot of frustration both on yours and the recipient’s side. By being able to verbalize your ideas and thoughts in concise ways - you can streamline communication and build a stronger relationship when sharing your ideas.
Be mindful of how people can react to the particular phrasing or wording, and try to avoid double meaning unless you’re 1000% sure the other side will understand it the way you intended to.
You don’t want to alarm your team by using words that could be interpreted as negative. Words such as exploit, peculiar, or stingy can leave employees with a bad taste in their mouths. If you extend your vocabulary to words with neutral or positive connotations you can drastically change the attitude you give off. Change exploit to employ, peculiar to unique or stingy to thrifty and already you can start to see your communication sharpen.
3. Make your text more emotive
It can be hard to gauge how someone is feeling through written text. Reading a message such as “Hey can we have a quick chat?” from your manager can get your heart racing if you don’t know the context of the message.
Try adding in more emotions into your messages to make sure your opponent gets what you meant the first time around. If this is appropriate in your working culture, make use of emojis! Your colleagues will feel so much more relaxed if they don’t have to await meetings to work out the tone of your upcoming messages.
4. Understand that communication is a 2-way street
Strong communication is an open floor, which means no monologues, no talking over the top of one another, and no speaking louder to get your way.
When we say communication - many people jump right into discussing how they sound and the pace at which they express themselves, which is of course a huge component. But communication is as much about listening as it is about talking.
If you want to create effective dialogue - you have to know where you stand with your team and you can only do this by asking the right questions and then really listening to what the answer is.
Active listening is incredibly important. There is so much more that goes on behind people's words so keep an ear out for the nuances in people's tones, their inflections, or the amount of time they talk for - it can tell you so much about what they really are trying to tell you.
5. Apply the same logic online as in person
Just because your workshops are taking place online does not mean that you should abandon any preparation that you otherwise would do in person.
No matter what the location, relaxing the set up of your workshop because it is virtual will only ever decrease productivity. Regardless of the setting a workshop can still become overcrowded, drag or fall prey to busy work. So if you want your remote workshop to still be gearing your team towards strong ideas, keep all the same workshopping practices in place. For a quick reminder of what some of those are:
- Only invite the doers, decision-makers, impacted parties only.
- Prepare an agenda
- Get everyone writing down ideas and contributing
Theoretically what you are aiming to do is just move the exact same practice online with as little change as possible.
6. Brush up your public speaking skills
Work on cutting out your cluster words - avoid umming and ahhing and work on delivering your point across succinctly. If you need time to think, it is so much better to pause and hold attention rather than fill gaps with unnecessary words.
You might have heard that fast talkers are taken less seriously. It’s proven time and time again that slower talking indicates authority. Fast talkers tend to subconsciously assume that they will be cut off whereas those who take pauses and slow down their speech assert control over what they are sharing.
Slowing down your speech will not only create more annunciation, combat mumbling and allow your vowels to resonate - it will also set a good pace for the workshop and influence others in the group to slow down and take the time to listen to each other rather than rush through their thoughts.
Good communication comes from displaying confidence when talking, no matter how strong your vocabulary or non clustered your sentences are, it’ll all go amiss unless everyone can hear you loud and clear.
In the boardroom, your participants will have non verbal cues to work off - such as your body language, facial expressions, body movement and hand gestures. But via a screen all of this is concentrated down into the way you use your words and how clear they are. So the three T’s become all the more important.
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7. Pay Attention to non-verbal cues
Encourage your team to use their video.
Non verbal cues are a huge component of communicating. It takes 7 seconds to make a first impression, that means before someone says anything at all they’ll have said enough to have made an imprint. This comes down to body language, body positioning, clothing, facial expression and so much more.
While working remotely hinders your ability to sense these non verbal cues, it gives you the ability to pick up on facial expression which is arguably the most important non verbal cue. Using video will give you a huge advantage over those only using their microphones. So don’t underestimate its importance.
There are tons of resources for online meetings so prepare to take full advantage.
Showing is always better than telling. Always remember that the brain is mostly an image processor, so even if you are an excellent speaker and have a strong grasp of linguistics you’ll find that visuals will always take you to the next dimension of communication.
Want to know some of our favorite visual aids for maximizing our online meetings?
Google Docs - The perfect tool for sharing documents, receiving feedback and collaborating. Utilising colour coding leaving comments and editing texts and excel sheets becomes a breeze with no fuss at all.
Zoom - Our best pick for video conferencing. Zoom has a clean grid layout that makes communicating with your team completely effortless, no matter how big your team is.
Miro - As you probably know, we love a sticky-note here at Workshopper and without being able to stick them all up on a wall for our team to see we thought we’d go mad. Finding Miro was one hell of a revelation. With this tool you can write on sticky notes, share them on a whiteboard, vote, draw and so much more. It really gives a tangible effect which is great for keeping our work as close to face-to-face as we can.
Mural - Another fantastic tool for brainstorming ideas. Mural is our go-to for working with our ideas visually with the team. It's best for collaborative work, generating ideas and commenting where necessary.
8. Switch to video for tough conversations
If you find yourself needing to have a conversation that is more difficult to have we recommend switching to video communication.
Writing words out when an employee or colleague isn’t quite hitting the benchmark will always fall short of having the discussion while seeing each other’s faces. By utilising video call you will have a substantial amount more control over how your tone is being received and can adjust your speech accordingly.
Try to avoid written communication, if video is not an option - a phone call is usually second best.
9. Don't be afraid to ask questions
Questions show strength not weakness.
When facilitating some shy away from asking questions so as not to look out of the loop. But the best facilitators know everything they are dealing with. If you don’t get the response you were expecting or wanted, ask questions to work out where the misunderstanding occurred.
Don’t let misunderstanding something drive down your control. Ask questions, gain clarity, remain in the loop always. After all, how can you communicate effectively if you don’t fully comprehend what you are dealing with?
Ask questions and ask them often - it’s the easiest and quickest way to progress towards what you are aiming for.
10. Over Communicate
There’s one vital difference between in-person and remote communication: the remote setting offers much more room for misinterpretation and miscommunication.
To combat that, make sure you err on the side of slightly over communicating.
To be noted: it’s NOT the same as oversharing.
Instead of trying to be efficient and get over with your interaction as soon as possible, take the time to really explain yourself. Don’t assume other team members understand your cues or the entire thinking process–you have to take them along for the ride.
Make the time to communicate with the goal of being crystal clear, regardless of whether you’re shooting an email, a short slack message, or jumping on a quick video call.
Pro tip: don’t confuse this with bombarding your team with excessive and unnecessary messages. There’s no need to confirm the same thing via a call, an email, and a message.