Completely remote communication is new for many of us. The ways in which we’ve reshaped our lives, jobs, and society are all new. And at the core of it all – you are new – or rather, how people perceive, connect, and experience you are.
Prior to this shift, it was easy to hide behind technology – to send a text or an email, rather than make a phone call or have a difficult conversation face-to-face. With virtual meetings, we’re no longer able to hide behind our screens - now, our screens reveal exactly who we are: how we present ourselves and the effort we put into our connection with others.
In today’s virtual world, you always have to be ‘on,’ and while there are many benefits, there are also a few cautions:
The Food Network came out with The Biggest Little Bite – a competition on ONE bite of food. Contestants have to really think about every aspect of that little spoon or fork of their meal: how it appears, the spectrum of flavors in one bite – a lot of thought and work has to be put into that one taste. That one bite.
Consider your visual elements in the virtual environment – it’s that one bite. Your face is emphasized; eye contact with the camera is critical; lighting and sound have to be good. Now, more than ever, building trust and connection with the audience are crucial- credibility must be established immediately.
The other day, I attended a large, virtual conference, where an MC introducer of several key people never looked at the camera, had poor lighting, and was in her kitchen – the disconnect was palpable. Every touchpoint a customer, or co-worker, has with others carries more weight than ever.
We used to use this Tide clip to emphasize distractions and to illustrate how hard it is to communicate our message. When working remotely, distractions are on steroids, and the audience notices everything: the bed in the background, a rushed or disheveled appearance, eyes looking elsewhere.
Acknowledging and forgiving these distractions allowed for empathy – for everyone to feel like ‘we’re all in this mess together.’ But now, we’ve waded in the water long enough. Communicating virtually is no longer shocking to the system, and it’s time to learn how to swim. As we’ve grown accustomed to this new reality, the next phase is raising the bar.
The magic of a single bite is concision – the chef must have a fully realized experience they want to create. This same level of intentionality needs to be applied when developing our message – know exactly where you want to lead a call or meeting. BBC and USA Today have reported how exhausted we are from relentless video-chats.
Understand your audience and imbue authenticity and empathy. Creating this experience is the biggest challenge in virtual communications. Our interactions with others need to be relevant, distinct, and human; otherwise, every video-meeting blends together, and our audience can’t remember anything.
Lean into the challenge of writing this new communications playbook. While there are some surprising similarities and differences between in-person communications and live, virtual communications, the one factor that determines success on both fronts is preparation. What we’re all learning now is that live virtual presenting is even more challenging than in-person speaking. It’s one thing to inspire an audience in Las Vegas. It’s something entirely different to inspire them from your living room. In this new communications playbook, Chapter 1 is on the importance of preparation.
As a leader, as a participant – this is your ‘one bite’ – so make it great and give it the proper attention. You will lead better, sell more, and create a better experience for you’ll connect with over that screen!