Virtual meetings have quickly become part of our everyday lives. And as the primary form of interaction with colleagues, clients and stakeholders for the foreseeable future, there’s a lot at stake.
Business resilience and success now relies on our ability to lead and influence in virtual meetings; to keep remote teams engaged and motivated; and to continue to share ideas, inspire innovation and build relationships from behind our computer screens.
So, how we show up really matters.
But we’re often fighting against some of the challenges that virtual communication presents. Here are a few of the big ones:
Muted body language
In person, we’re instinctively tuned into a huge range of visual cues. It’s said that 60-80% of communication is through body language. So, shrinking people into a screen where only their head and shoulders are visible, means we lose out on vital signals. It’s why we need to pay more attention to the tools we can use to amplify what we’re saying.
A participant in one of our webinars summed it up beautifully. “You wouldn’t walk into a meeting with a bag on your head. So why is it OK to have your camera off?” This is a frustration for many teams, so it’s important to set expectations and stick to them. Of course, there might be times when turning off your camera is appropriate but be aware this can limit interaction and send a message of disengagement.
When meetings are overly long, unengaging, or poorly led, you can see people starting to glaze over and think about something else. Bit by bit, the multitasking begins. Checking an email, replying to a message, scrolling through Facebook – it happens more often than you might think. In fact, 99% of people admit to multitasking in virtual meetings.
Communicating virtually becomes more one-way than the in-person equivalent. We miss the nods, the ‘mmms’ of agreement and the natural flow of conversation. The sound of your own voice and the appearance of your face looking back at you can knock you off course. So, to make up for it, there’s a tendency to broadcast a message or a presentation, to drift into monotonous vocal delivery, and to cram as much information as possible into the airtime.
Thanks to all of the above and more, it takes extra effort to concentrate and engage in virtual interactions. And leading a meeting, particularly with lots of participants, can feel like a Herculean task. Most people we speak to have suffered from some kind of virtual meeting fatigue – so we need to do more to keep meetings short, engaging and focused (see Ginger’s answer to virtual meetings that have twice the impact in half the time).
Taking control of your impact
The good news is, there are changes you can make to overcome the challenges and transform your virtual impact – whether you’re presenting or participating in online interactions. A key part of your ‘virtual leadership’ is taking control of your own on-screen presence and impact. The more you do to work with rather than against the barriers of virtual communication, the better the results…
Like filling the screen, good lighting and an appealing backdrop. And turning up the dial on your body language, enthusiasm and warmth to connect with and inspire the people on the other side of the screen.
When you do this, people sit up and take notice. It rubs off on those around you who realise they need to up their game too.
Of course, it’s easier said than done. We don’t get to practice this stuff. We’re just expected to know it. That’s why our Virtually Brilliant programme is so popular with clients. It’s an opportunity for entire teams to shake up their virtual communications, improve performance and carve a sustainable future in this online world.
If you’re wondering where to start, you can get a taster of this training in our free Virtual Presence and Impact webinars. Come and join us on the next one.
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels