Your questions answered about online communication

Did you watch our webinar on making your online meetings a success?

If you did, you’ll know we were asked a number of questions by the audience.

In fact, we had more questions than we had time to answer.

And that probably wasn’t that surprising as we all try to adapt to these new remote ways of working and look for ways of ensuring we can communicate effectively online.

So, we’ve put all those questions together in this blog together with responses from some of our online training expert tutors.

 

How can we best stay in touch with both those members of our teams who are working remotely and those who are at home with no work to do? We want to make sure that everyone remains updated and focused for returning to work.

Regular online meetings are crucial. Whether you are working from home, or at home with no work to do, everyone will benefit from regular catch-ups.

These meetings don’t need to be long, but it is important all your people feel connected, updated and informed of any progress.

You can try to make them fun. We’ve heard of one company in America that is holding a weekly online happy hour with its teams, where everyone taking part comes along with a drink.

Depending on the size of your teams, one-to-one video calls may also be beneficial during this strange time and play a part in tackling the loneliness that can come with remote working. Instead of sending an email, consider a quick video call instead – it may be a little more time consuming, but your teams will appreciate it.

Also consider creating a WhatsApp or Facebook Group. Here at Media First we have a really active WhatsApp group that keeps us all connected.

 

How can we strike the right tone in these covid-19 times?

This is vital. It’s important to realise that while people will want to carry on and perform their roles, they will be looking to see their organisation is doing everything to put their health and safety first.

Many will also face the added complication of having to balance home schooling needs with their work.

So, it is important that you sound empathetic in your online meetings. Your team also needs to believe and trust you, so you must appear honest and open.

We touched on this in the webinar, but it is worth repeating – you need to appear as positive as possible and energetic in online meetings. Your audience will be looking for signs of how you really feel, so if you come across as tired, defeated, stressed etc, that will not give them the confidence they are looking for in these uncertain times.

 

With increased volumes of video calls recently, my team is flagging concern for feeling overwhelmed by the increased screen time (eye and mental strain) and over communication across teams via multiple VCs (video conferences) a day. Is there such thing as too much video communication right now? How can we manage this to not overwhelm staff at such an early time in this new age? Is video call the best form of comms?

This is something that is likely to level out in time. At the moment, most organisations are in the first few weeks of this new remote working world and are probably still striving to find the right balance.

Ultimately, over-communication is preferable to employees feeling isolated and forgotten.

But it is important that your online meetings have a purpose. The average European office worker spends 13 days a year in meetings and many of them are regarded as unnecessary, so think about what you want to achieve before setting up your online meeting. Once you decide to hold one, keep it concise and be forceful with anyone who drones on, reminding them how long you have for the meeting.

Is too much screen time likely to be an issue? Well, the average worker spends six and a half hours staring at a computer screen every day, so that should not be a significant issue.

But, it if is a concern you can use the video technology software to have audio meetings.

We’d also recommend using the record function of your video conferencing software when on internal meetings. This allows you to share the video, or edited sections of it, with your teams after the meeting. This is great for people who are less likely to have an active role in the meeting but need to be there ‘for information purposes only’ as it means that people have a choice as to when they watch the meeting and can fit it around their childcare and other challenges.

 

What sort of microphone and/or headset should I buy to get the right quality for media interviews?

You could throw a lot of money at this, but you don’t need to do that.

In terms of microphones, you can’t really go wrong with a USB lapel microphone costing around £20.

And, unless you want to look like Britney Spears, you don’t need to buy a headset… a simple external speaker will boost the volume of your computer's speaker and make sure that you can clearly hear what is being said during your online meetings.

 

There is a lot of advice around online communication. What's a good first step to improve online communication?

Good presentation techniques are key. Make sure that your video conferencing meetings are engaging. If online meetings are dull, delivered in monotone, and sound like the audience is being talked at, people will quickly come to dread them.

Vary your tone and make sure you sound energetic and conversational. Invite questions from the audience, or at least make them aware that they will be able to ask questions at the end.

Also, remember that the technology is your friend you can use things like polls and chats to encourage your audience to play an active part in the meeting.

Finally, attention spans are even shorter in online meetings and there are plenty of temptations for multi-tasking. So, keep the meeting as short as possible.

 

How do we get our CEO to realise that online is a different beast to face to face?

Online communication presents many challenges for leaders, regardless of whether or not they regard themselves as a digital native.

Do they feel they can demonstrate strong and empathetic leadership through an online meeting? Can they inspire remotely? Can they project the honesty or confidence their teams will be looking for?

Even relatively small mistakes, like poor eye contact or a bad camera angle can detract from the message you want to get across online.

Another key consideration is that many workers feel a lot of face-to-face meetings are a waste of time and that question of ‘do we really need to meet’ is likely to be more commonplace online. So, leaders really must start their meetings strongly and purposefully if they are going to succeed.

 

When you're speaking to someone online should you look at them or at the camera?

You need to look straight down the barrel of the lens to create the illusion of eye contact.

If you look directly at the participants on the screen it will appear that you are looking down and trying to avoid eye contact, and that in turn can make you seem a little shifty and nervous.

That said, don’t be afraid to glance at them as you speak to ‘check in’ that they are still engaged. And people are accepting of you looking at them when they are speaking as well.

 

How do you keep yourself on track and make sure that you are doing a good job when you can't see or hear your audience's reaction?

There are a few key things to look out for that will let you know you are doing a good job. Firstly, if your team turns up in their pyjamas and are yawning into the webcam, then they are probably not in the right frame of mind and you may need to reconsider the timing of future meetings.

A great tell-tale sign of engagement in a meeting is when the audience asks questions. It shows that they are interested in what is being discussed and trying to understand the information that is being presented. We discussed questions during our webinar and you can decide whether to take them as you go along or to have a dedicated time at the end of the presentation to answer them.

Depending on the size of your meeting, you can also go ‘round the table’ and get input from those taking part.

Another good indicator is if the audience suggests actions and solutions to problems. This again shows they are thinking about what is being discussed.

Everyone loves a chance to show off, so incorporate quizzes, polls and chats into the meeting. This will also help to keep fingers busy and help people avoid the temptation of responding to an email that has just come in, for example.

Finally, think about setting and sending out clear objectives before the start of the meeting. This will help to keep the meeting focused and the attendees will have a clear idea of what is expected from them.

 

Do you have any tips for helping to calm the nerves beforehand?

We’ve been helping people to overcome their nerves about media interviews and presentations for many years.

And it is perfectly understandable that people feel anxious and unsure about online meetings.

The key thing to remember is that online meetings are something new for the majority of workers and many people will be feeling the same way.

As ever, preparation is crucial. Make sure you are confident using the technology and that is working well and prepare what you want to get across in the meeting.

But don’t put pressure on yourself to be perfect. No-one expects you to be flawless and mistakes will happen.

Even if you are feeling nervous, there are some simple body language tips that can help you seem confident. Look down the lens and make sure you have good eye-contact with the audience and smile (unless you are about to convey really bad news).

Also, avoid fidgeting with hair, glasses or pens.

Ultimately, the more practise you have and the more online meetings you lead, the less nervous you will feel.

 

How can both presenters and the audience or other meeting attendees ensure that connections are strong - a poor quality video conference/presentation can be damaging?

Yes, poor quality sound and video can be damaging and is one of the key challenges with online meetings. 

The key here is to test the technology first and make sure it is something that works for everyone. Have a pre-meeting test session with a small number of participants to make sure everything is working well.

If you have people in your team who are particularly uncomfortable with technology, offer to guide them through and get it working before the meeting

Whatever technology you use to host the meeting, make sure it is the latest version. Try to use a wired connection to your router if possible and avoid starting your meetings on the hour, so that the network has a chance to catch up.

 

How do you facilitate the questions at the end to make sure everyone has the chance to speak?

The best way of doing this is to have a bit of support in your meeting. When we are holding one of or webinars, we appoint someone to be the producer and their role is to gather the questions and comments and ensure everyone who raises a virtual hand during the meeting has a chance to speak.

We also do this on some of our larger online training courses.

Another good way of doing this, particularly in larger meetings is to use the online Q&A tools to crowd-source questions.

This gives the participants the option to see the questions that are being posed and vote for the most pertinent ones.

If you run out of time, you can always answer any unanswered questions through email or on your intranet site after the meeting. Much like we’ve chosen to do with this blog.

 

Do you have any questions about online meetings that we haven’t covered? Get in touch through hello@mediafirst.co.uk and we will help you. And get in touch if you want any help to ensure your online meetings are a success, or if you want to find out more about our bespoke online training courses.

 

Media First are media and communications training specialists with over 30 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers. 

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Media First are media and communications training specialists with over 30 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers.

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