8 Key Skills for Virtual Meetings

 

Whether you work from home or on the move, you won’t always share the same physical space as the people you work with. More often than not, meetings and collaborative sessions will take place in virtual spaces, like over the phone or on Skype.

These tools are great in enabling us to connect with our colleagues wherever we are, but they also present remote workers with unique challenges. How, for example, can we properly convey ourselves when we’re only heard and not seen?

There are 8 key skills that can improve the experience for teleworkers and ensure effective communication, collaboration and engagement in virtual spaces.

 

  1. Clarity. It’s important, when working remotely, to ensure that what you mean to say is communicated clearly. Without seeing a room full of puzzled faces, it can be hard to tell when you’ve been misinterpreted. Articulate clearly and be careful with your use of language. Make notes and check the clarity of your line before your call.
  2. Power. It’s difficult to establish influence and authority by choice of words alone. In virtual meetings, use your ‘paralinguistic’ skills – in other words, adjust your tone of voice, volume, pitch and emphasis as you speak.
  3. Emotion. Conveying emotions, attitudes, hints and suggestions is easier in person, when we can use body language. Remote workers need to find other ways to express and detect these kinds of messages through what they say, how they say it and the questions they ask.
  4. Identity. People often feel a need to meet face to face at the outset of a business relationship, even when further interactions will take place remotely. At a glance, we draw conclusions about ‘what kind of person’ we’re meeting, what their status is compared to ours and what we have in common. Home workers often have to project their identity without meeting face to face. This can be a natural ‘leveller’, but it also means building trust is a longer and more careful process.
  5. Context. Communicating by voice alone can feel a bit detached from reality – you lose contextual information about where you are and what’s happening around you. Remember to explain where you are at the beginning of your call. Allow some background noises too, like the stirring of a cup of coffee or the turning of a page.
  6. Rapport. To develop a friendship or good working relationship without spending much time face to face, remote workers have to work harder to compensate for the loss of visual clues. Be an active listener and use vocal equivalents of nodding, eye contact and smiling.
  7. Engagement. Without visual or physical information, it’s quite easy to get bored whilst on a conference call. Be creative to engage people, capture and hold their attention. Use stories, metaphors and analogies; switch up your pace, tone and volume, and use multimedia to keep people involved.
  8. Dynamics. It’s quite a daunting task to manage team dynamics over a conference call or webinar. Often, people make the mistake of thinking that teleconferences are less formal and less scary, because you’re not standing in front of a live audience. When, in actual fact, you need a much more rigid and well prepared structure to really make it work.

Learn more about trends in flexible working in the free white paper study Home Working: Lost In Translation (PDF, 6 MB) by Plantronics.

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