Communicating with teams in a virtual environment is an important skill for any leader. Virtual communication in emails or through online meetings is different than communicating in person, but there are also many similarities.
With just a few simple strategies, leaders can improve their virtual communication. One of the first steps is to carefully consider the option in presenting the information. Virtual meetings are ideal for delivering information to individuals or the team in a more interactive format through a video platform. Emails are effective at providing specific information or setting tasks that are well-understood by those receiving the email.
The skills needed for improving email communication should focus on creating precise language and a clear message. Often, emails contain different information that can be confusing or difficult to understand. Emails can also become more “chatty” and less focused on the message, creating confusion about the importance of the information.
To become more effective at emails, consider the following:
- Brief and clear – keep emails short and to the point. Do not add information that is unnecessary. A good rule is to write one email per subject, not combining multiple subjects in the same email.
- Is it necessary? – it is frustrating for a team to receive emails that are redundant or unnecessary. Too many emails result in people not opening emails in a timely manner, which can adversely impact the team or project.
- Use a relevant subject line – the subject line should be the focus on the email to alert the recipient as to the context and content in the email.
- Individual or group email – not everyone on the team needs to see all emails. Keep emails to the relevant individuals to reduce confusion and frustration for recipients who do not need the information.
- Proofread – always take the time to proofread an email before hitting the send button. Also, be sure to avoid hitting reply all unless the goal is to send the response to everyone.
Better Virtual Communication
To improve communication during virtual meetings, the following tips can help you to model the best practices:
- Set up your system – have the camera, lighting, and sound tested before getting on the meeting. The camera should be positioned so you are looking straight into the lens, which means the participants see you looking straight out at them, not up, down, or to the side.
- Have a clear focus and message – it is easy to get into the habit of calling virtual team meetings even if all members are not required for the meeting. Consider options to meet with key individuals or perhaps to communicate by email, direct phone call, or through messages in project management software or other similar collaborative software systems.
- Send an agenda and time schedule – people are more engaged and willing to participate if they have a clear understanding of the time commitment and the meeting agenda. Honor the time indicated and consider a follow-up call with key individuals if there are areas where further discussion is relevant.
- Plan to engage the participants – asking for feedback, insights, and ideas or having each individual report to the group helps to increase communication and collaboration between the team. It also clarifies the purpose of the meeting for each individual.
- Become comfortable with silence – online platforms create a sense of distance, which makes it difficult for everyone on the call to know who is going to speak next. Be comfortable with silence between asking questions and getting answers or between speakers. Avoid jumping in to add more information and give people time to respond.
Checking for understanding is also critical when providing information in virtual meetings. Keeping these communications short and concise and providing necessary information before the meeting also helps to increase understanding and participation.