With so many of us doing business online now, both the blessings and the curses of working in a virtual space have now come into sharper focus. The reality of it is that working online can be a very positive experience — or it can be completely irritating! Part of it is due to the technology — but also to how you choose to use it.

Recently, I watched the video, Five Tactics The Greatest Leaders Use To Win In Crisis, by Robin Sharma, a favorite rock start leadership and personal mastery guru. In it, he talks about how each one of us has to make choices based on reliable sources of information. He emphasizes that we need to focus on clear, concise messages in order to move forward.

I couldn’t agree with him more! But, all too often messages delivered in the virtual space are not clear and concise. All too often, they’re fuzzy and confusing. And this leads to them frequently being misconstrued. It’s also difficult to have real meaningful dialogue in online meetings, largely because of the nature of the technology itself. (I’m looking at you Zoom!) Virtual meeting technologies do not typically lend themselves well to conducive, interactive conversation. In addition, some people are uncomfortable about being “on camera,” worrying more about their own physical appearance than the content of the meeting. It’s just not possible to have the same kind of communication in a virtual space, as it is to have in a real one.

It’s not that it’s impossible to have positive and productive communications in the virtual space. It’s that you need guidelines. So here are 3 invaluable guidelines I offer to help you reduce the chance of misconstrued messages occurring in your virtual meetings.

My Three Guideline For Avoiding Misconstrued Messages
1. Don’t Wing It
Online meetings should be thought out in advance. Decide on an agenda. Share it prior to the meeting so that participants can mentally prepare. Decide who will speak and when. Set time limits: No one gets to yack on indefinitely! Build in time for questions and answers. Make sure to have a moderator who keeps things on track.

2. Don’t Ignore It
Just because a meeting is in a virtual space, doesn’t mean that human nature suddenly changes. Don’t ignore that fact! People need time to say hello and to chat before (or after) the bigger meeting takes place. This may work for your group. But, however you choose to organize it, be sure to allow for that virtual “water cooler” time.

3. Don’t Lose It
Some people do get nervous in online meetings knowing that there is a large group listening and/or watching them on screen. Be patient! Listen hard! And don’t rush in with your own responses! Recognize that a video conference has its limitations. If the message you’re getting from someone online seems confusing or negative, keep your cool and consider following up with a phone call or an email.

I’ve worked virtually for a number of years, using a combination of telephone and video conferencing, as well as email. For my last tip for you today: Consider going back to basics — phone conferencing. While it’s true you won’t see body language, you may find it easier to focus on listening. You may also be better positioned to ask pointed questions and to get the information you need. Plus, you can do all of that without anyone silently obsessing over the outfit he/she chose to wear to virtual work that day!

To find out more about I can help you improve your virtual business communications with your team and with your clients, contact me at The Language Lab.

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