Being virtually present: Ten things you can do that make all the difference.

Technology was already becoming a big part of our lives prior to COVID 19, but when the virus reached pandemic levels, the transition to a virtual world accelerated.  Many of us now find ourselves communicating solely online.

For those of you who had already been working remotely, the adaptation is not as drastic. However if you were used to giving presentations, having meetings with customers, and/or meeting with your team in person, creating an engaging, collaborative work environment in the  virtual workplace requires  adaptations that should not be underestimated.

So here are ten reminders of measures you can take each and every day during every remote interaction to ensure that your message is not lost in virtual translation.

First, clarify your goals and ask yourself why you are participating in this conversation and what you would like to accomplish. Is it…. to listen and  learn? 

– to participate and speak up?

– to lead , motivate and encourage?

– to persuade, influence and/or sell?

Either way, take time to maximize your Physical and On-Camera presence: 

  1. 1. Dress appropriately: We all know you are at home, but scruffy can come across as disrespectful as opposed to competent, confident and knowledgeable.
  2. 2. Where possible, have your video camera on. It’s synonymous to showing up at a meeting in person.
  3. 3. Stay focused and present . That means no multitasking. No answering emails or checking
  4. Facebook or turning your camera  off and calling your mother. 
  5. 4. Look joyful: That means have a pleasant expression on your face and look attentive.
  6. 5. When you communicate , remember we can’t see your entire body, so we are relying on you from the waist up to fully understand your message. This means use vocal variety. Where applicable, “show and tell”  is an excellent  tool. This can be great slides, but don’t be afraid to actually show the physical item you are talking about.
  7. 6. Listen, observe and pause even more than you do in person. It is  much more natural and organic to observe cues in person than it is remotely, so it is important to be aware of the limitations of a virtual interaction. For example,  in  a face-to-face meeting, when someone wants to speak they could simply catch your eye, raise a hand or start speaking. Online this isn’t as simple, so if you ask a question you may need to pause while the speaker unmutes, or more often than not remind them to do so. You may also have to prepare participants beforehand that you may be calling on them. And you could also explore the available tools on your particular online platform, that may facilitate interaction like signaling when a meeting participant would like to speak.
  8. 7. Remember building a network of people you truly support and who support you takes time and effort. As there is no break room or pre-meeting chitchat this means taking extra time to ask questions and check in. I use the time while waiting for people to dial in to ask those who have come on early how they are doing.

An important  question I like to ask people is what their biggest challenge is during this unprecedented time. I often find their responses add to my own insights and strategies of how to navigate and even flourish in this challenging environment!

  1. 8. Master your technology. Make sure you are familiar and comfortable with the platform you are using and what features you can be using to keep the interaction lively and participative.
  1. 9. Tune in to people’s emotional states, styles of engaging and cultural differences. So much is lost in virtual translation that it requires deep attention to notice if someone is not feeling comfortable or requires additional attention after the meeting.
  1. 10. Work on your on-camera presence: For some simple tips, watch the video below on how to avoid some classic no-no’s like having a distracting background, or setting the webcam angle too high or low so that only the top of your head or chin shows.

 

And here is the Bottom Line:  Don’t underestimate the adjustments you need to make to ensure your virtual interactions are achieving their intended goals and that you are inviting participation and contributing to a collaborate, productive and engaging culture.