Communicating Powerfully During the Crisis: 5 Tips for Adapting to Virtual Communications
Amid the unprecedented global health crisis ushered in by COVID-19, change is everywhere. Not only are we changing the way we interact socially, we changed the way we do business virtually overnight. Companies of all shapes and sizes have been forced to adapt quickly amid universal business disruption. Communication is critical to how leaders enact and articulate change. While pivoting to cater to an increasingly remote audience, corporate leaders must also embrace a new set of communications tactics to ensure their messages are resonating.
From executing a sales pitch or media interview via Skype, Zoom, Teams, Facetime…pick your platform…to engaging your workforce with a company-wide video conference call, digital communications techniques are taking on newfound significance. By connecting teams and contributing to business continuity, video presentations are an important tool that come with their own set of challenges. In these times of uncertainty, you can feel confident in your approach to effective virtual communication by acting on these crucial points:
- Put the needs of your audience first.
Our physical and emotional well-being comes first. Acknowledge that with your audience by checking in – respect their boundaries, while giving them the space to share what is going on in their world before you jump to discussing business. Making a personal connection with your audience is a meaningful way to build relationships despite the distancing effect associated with today’s global health crisis.
- Be honest.
This is an incredibly difficult time – and even that is an understatement. It’s scary, it’s uncertain, and it’s hard to imagine a single person who will emerge from this crisis without having been impacted in some way. Leaders are used to having a game plan and following a prescribed course, so the fluidity of this ever-changing situation is unsettling for even the most seasoned leaders. It’s OK to say that you are concerned too – it only makes you human – but be specific about the steps you are taking to weather the storm so stakeholders see the leadership in action.
- Stay focused.
Go in with a game plan that is focused around the key takeaways you want to leave behind. Keep it simple – stick to three key messages for your listeners to walk away with. Approaching the dialogue with a clear, coherent strategy will enable you to stay on message and keep the focus on your ultimate goals. By outlining in advance your understanding of your audience and their needs, you can tailor your approach to prioritize your intended outcomes and showcase what you want your listeners to remember.
- Be mindful of body language.
The science is undeniable: studies have found that up to 93% of communication is visual and vocal, meaning the vast majority of what you’re communicating goes beyond the words themselves. Body language and vocal tone are especially critical when navigating virtual communication, as your efforts can be simultaneously challenged and emphasized by the medium. As you’re on camera throughout the session, it’s important to be engaged 100% of the time—sit up straight, limit distractions, and be mindful of your gestures and body positioning.
- Remember: the camera is key.
Before using a video conference platform, ensure you have a strong internet connection and good lighting – behind the camera and at eye level is ideal. Check to make sure your background is appropriate and that you have optimal framing. During the video call itself, look at the camera, not your own image. Amid widespread isolation, the simple gesture of eye contact reinforces a human connection that is often lacking with our day-to-day social distancing practices.