Of all the workshops I facilitate, perhaps the one I'm doing most recently is the most relevant and necessary. It is called Communicating Well with Technology. It is an hour-long workshop to help people who conduct meetings and business virtually have greater success with their digital experience.
What Do You Need To Know?
Here's what is most important to know. Communicating online via digital or virtual communication involves
- Taking extra to prepare and rehearse before your meeting
- Having a Plan B should you have a speaker who doesn't show up or if you have a technology glitch
- Considering including a co-facilitator or producer to take over should you have technology or other issues and someone to help manage breakout rooms, poll questions, as well as monitor the chat feature
- Accepting that digital meetings are here to stay
- Being sensitive to your appearance and what looks good on camera and more importantly, what is distracting. Wear solid colours and avoid bright white or dark black as they look like a "blob" on camera
- Knowing how to set up your lighting, sound, and ensuring you are at eye level with the webcam
How Big of A Deal Is All This?
It is a big deal because digital meetings tax our brain's attention systems and a sea of faces confront us constantly with an overload of stimuli.
These neuroscience factors make it more challenging to communicate with authenticity and establish trust while holding your audience's attention.
Trust is Everything
Communicating well involves establishing and maintaining trust. How you do this is a delicate balance of a number of factors including your verbal and non-verbal language as well as what and when you communicate.
Statistics reveal that even a one-second lag or interruption in your response (in a digital meeting) triggers a sense of unease in others and can give the impression that you are uninterested or distracted.
Trust is built when you are prepared and consistent in your delivery. This means you:
- Create and share an agenda beforehand
- Keep everyone on task
- Give people space to talk
- Facilitate engagement by calling on people or designating a speaking order. For example, "I'll start with Rose, and then move on to Bill and then Ted."
Master the Mute Feature
Know when you're on mute and how to navigate your unmute button effortlessly using the various online meeting platforms. Here's a funny video clip demonstrating how not to conduct a digital meeting and the importance of being the master of the mute feature.
As much as is humanly possible, think ahead to what distractions you'll need to manage. For example, my dog, Olive, sleeps under my desk when I work. She snores a little, but is usually very quiet and as my office is in the basement of my home, she doesn't bark because street noises aren't bothering her.
In my office, I don't need to worry about her barking. I do need to consider deliveries and the sound of the doorbell ringing.
Doorbells, Dogs, and Family Members
If I know a delivery is scheduled, I notify the delivery team or a member of my family to help me manage it so that my meeting will not be interrupted in any way.
I also have a sign on my door when there is a critical meeting that cannot be disturbed unless there is a life-threatening situation.
All this is offered as a point about the value of preparing and pre-planning so that distractions don't become an issue that will make you look disorganized or untrustworthy.
I've included two funny video clips of working from home on camera fails. The first is a mom trying to lead a meditation while her daughter is video-bombing her efforts. Watch it here.
The second is my favourite as it involves a dog named Brody --- and his person, Paul Dellegatto, trying to give a live weather forecast from his home. Watch it here.
Use Icebreakers, Poll Questions, Breakout Rooms and Videos
Our brains are looking for certainty in every situation and are constantly trying to get a sense for what will come next or when something will end. It tries to anticipate what is predictable or threatening.
This triggers our attention span. Where we used to have people's attention for upwards of twenty minutes, it is now between seven and ten minutes.
It means you need to break up content and aspects of your digital meeting or training with poll questions and breakout discussions. It is an integral component of adult learning. And, no-one wants to be seen as a talking head that drones on.
Change up your delivery method with a poll question or a "reflect on this" breakout room question.
Consider introducing a short (under 3-minute video) too. Especially if the content you are delivery is heavy, a funny, but appropriate, video clip may just do the trick.
Keep your audience involved and anticipating that their participation will be called upon at any moment.
Lights, Camera, Action
Lighting is key and getting it right may be a bit tricky. I've found that using a ring light has been a game-changer for me.
I've included a few links to lighting rings that are under $50 Canadian.
Some you can clamp on your desk or table and others come with a stand. It is well worth the investment.
Points to Remember
- The wrong lighting can make your face look shaded or blocked
- Have one steady lamp or ring light directly on your face
- Avoid sidelights or backlighting
- Don't sit with your back to the window. The webcam will expose the light and make you into a silhouette
- Face the window for a people-pleasing light
Keep at Eye-Level
You don't want to be looking down on people or have them looking up at your nostrils.
You also want to position yourself at the right distance from the webcam so that it doesn't distort your face. Step back from the camera. The closer you are to a wide-angle, the more distorted you are.
Test out how you look on camera. Conduct a practice meeting with a trusted friend or colleague and ensure you're positioned just right BEFORE your meeting.
With these suggestions in mind, you're off to the races with the makings of glitch-free, smooth-running digital meeting.
Please contact me at [email protected] to arrange a free introductory call to discuss how we can customize Communicating Well with Technology for your next team meeting or online event.