With the world now being bifurcated into phases that are termed as ‘Pre-Covid’, ‘Post-Covid’, ‘First Wave’, ‘Second Wave’ etc., most businesses are undergoing a dynamic change. With social distancing norms present in most locations, companies are still using work from home measures including remote interactions, online meetings/webinars, or even virtual conferences.
Virtual meetings are the norm now, and these can help us reap all the benefits of face-to-face meetings if they are planned and executed wisely. As an attendee, the biggest challenge in a virtual meeting is to make your presence felt and communicate effectively.
According to the Forbes Communication Council, an in-depth planning and execution strategy is essential to make communication a success at virtual meetings. The most common actionable techniques that aid in better communication process in virtual meetings are:
Practice as much as you can
Usually, it is observed that virtual meetings take more preparation than face-to-face ones, since, besides preparing the content you would also have to take into account the possibility of a technical glitch and ways to overcome it. Practicing your talking points not only helps you to remain confident in spite of technical glitches but also helps save time for other team members by ensuring continuity and flow of conversation. Hence it is advisable that you practice substantially before the meeting.
Be clear about your objective
It is important that one is clear about the objective of the meeting, for this ensures an effective communication process between attendees. Having a clear objective will also help you understand the needs of the other attendees, whether they are your colleagues or from external organizations; you could share the agenda of the meeting in advance so that there is no possibility of any digression from the main discussion. This would further aid in respecting the time of other participants. As an attendee, you could keep your points ready and speak them out loud before elaborating on each point and its elements.
Change your strategy of communication
With most businesses opting for virtual meetings it is becoming increasingly important that one must consider the gravity of the virtual medium being used. It is essential that you must inculcate active listening skills; place complete focus on the individual you are interacting with, use a room that is as noise-free as possible, and use headphones for better listening.
Since the mode of communication is purely virtual, you must work on your voice, pitch, and intonation; these must convey how interested you are, especially since video may not be a norm for all interactions. Incorporate a smile when required, if you are on video. Speak with conviction and seek clarifications often, as this would ensure smooth communication.
How you sound to others in a virtual meeting is a really important aspect of the overall communication process. Your tone reflects 38% of the message face-to-face while on a virtual set up it increases to 70-90%. Even a minute emphasis on a particular word will make a huge impact.
As aptly pointed out by Preeti Kaushal, Deputy Manager, ITM Business School, Navi Mumbai, "Virtual meetings initially sounded like a 360-degree shift from the regular ones and it was definitely met with a lot of apprehensions. However, as our business progressed we started getting acclimatized with the same. With frequent virtual meetups, we understood how our communication style had to be changed; it has now become multidimensional wherein we not only focus on the content and delivery part but also the technological aspect of it." She signs off by saying that virtual meetings are the future, with or without the pandemic.