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“The lag is real” Tips for Virtually Communicating

As organizations continue to adapt and consider how to best perform work virtually, the opportunity to share challenges and insights has become a crucial conversation. The simple touch base with your manager or that daily stand up meeting has now become trials in internet connections, audio quality, and whether or not everyone can “see your screen”. The traditional method of face-to-face training, from the hour-long introduction to a new software tool to the multi-day customer service extravaganza, is another area seeing disruption and change.

While virtual training, either with a live instructor or a pre-recorded module, is nothing new to organizations of all shapes and sizes, we’ve always had the option of which method of training delivery is best suited to our needs. Teams within an organization are now faced with having less flexibility and options in this regard, while still being asked to keep a “business as usual” feel to more increasingly “unusual” ways of doing our work.

Having recently been asked to adapt some of our traditional classroom content to a virtual delivery method, our trainers here at Goren and Associates wanted to provide some of our notes and insights into the challenges this transition can cause. We also wanted to encourage those who feel it is impossible to replicate the experience of the classroom while facing the barrier of a screen. 

The Lag is Real

We all know what this is. That small little gap of time that can occur during a virtual conversation. We see it more recently now as your favorite talk show adapts to working from home for example. This also provides the bulk of the comedy when parodied in a movie or on a tv show. A question is asked, and what follows is that uncomfortable 3-5 seconds of dead air, before you eventually see the nod of someone’s head as they give a response. Or worse – the lag between a question or comment becomes so uncomfortable that someone else feels the need to speak, resulting in two people talking at once. This is usually followed by both saying at the same time, “No YOU go first” – at which point they both smile, and wait, usually for another 3-5 seconds, before the conversation can uncomfortably continue.

GAA Tip: This one can be benefited by practicing the flow and timing of how you deliver information and ask questions. Collect your thoughts and direct questions to a specific person, making it clear when you are done speaking. Avoid hanging thoughts or unnecessary follow-up questions after making your point. Be concise and set a rhythm to your conversational tone, for example, “Based on that, I feel strongly that the project is on schedule, but I was hoping to hear from Tim’s team about how their progress has been?” (Pause).

Don’t Assume Technical Knowledge

As the makeup of your employee population becomes more diverse, so too has the range of comfort they may have with different technical tools and software. While most virtual meeting applications such as Skype, Go To Meeting, or Zoom is built on a foundation of being customer-friendly, don’t assume that everyone is as comfortable with instructions such as “just click the link and enter the meeting ID and password, its right there in the email I sent!”

GAA Tip: Be aware of the “simple” challenges that can arise with first time users of virtual tools. Be available and open both before and during presentations to help people with technical issues. Have a troubleshooting guide or FAQ document premade that you can distribute to address common problems. 

Extend this understanding further, especially when using virtual training tools such as chats, hand raising, polls, and the use of virtual pencils or highlighters. Build into the start of your training an overview of how these tools work and give time for participants to practice. Spending ten minutes at the beginning of your meeting/training to make sure your group is comfortable with the platform not only increases the attendee’s confidence but can decrease individual stress for someone that hasn’t used technology as much as others. It can also save you the pain of troubleshooting a simple task later on in your presentation.

Make Sure Time Is On Your Side (Yes It Is)

Even before we were all asked to primarily work from home, the art of making a timely meeting or training agenda could prove difficult. It is even more important now to consider the age-old question of when (or IF) a meeting is even necessary, or whether something simple like an email or informational PDF would make more sense. When changing up your training or meeting agenda for online delivery, make sure you give special consideration to timing factors and how technology can tend to drag things out.

GAA Tip: Consider all the above! Take into account the lag as well as any gaps in knowledge of the technology being utilized. If your traditional classroom training or meeting typically takes an hour, but now the first ten minutes will involve an overview of your virtual software tools, AND you still need to ask all 12 of your team members for updates (with some lag hiccups sprinkled in), be conscientious of how that will add time to your agenda. Do some of your attendees have other virtual meetings scheduled prior and need to pull up new login info? Should you add an additional 30 minutes simply to account for those that may experience technical difficulties? Believe it or not, your team members or trainees will appreciate it more if a meeting time is extended and they can plan ahead as opposed to running 20 or 30 minutes over the scheduled end time.

You Can Still Make That Connection

A common critique of the transition from in-person to virtual interactions is the difficulty in being able to make that “connection” with your audience. The ability to communicate with a room through movement, eye contact, questions, and open dialogue, can often seem unattainable through a virtual platform.

GAA Tip: Don’t forget the power that your voice can have in exhibiting genuine enthusiasm for your content. While the physical setting of your presentation may be different, the passion you feel for your work will not be lost on those you are speaking to. Be sincere and natural in your delivery, letting your excitement for learning shine through. We recently received feedback from a virtual training attendee that commented on how their partner (also working from home) overheard our presentation delivery and could hear, simply through audio, the excitement and enthusiasm of someone who was genuinely passionate about their work. The disadvantages of online content delivery are real, but never lose sight of the impact your voice can have on those listening.

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