Virtual communication has become a new norm in 2020, thanks to Covid-19 and many individuals being forced to work remotely. While employees and executives are still getting work done, a seemingly endless stream of online meetings can take its toll on how effective communication actually is.
There are ways we can improve, however, if we simply learn from one part of the population that has been utilizing a form of virtual communication for years – deaf people. In a recent article for the Harvard Business Review, Sabina Nawaz and Roberta Cordano laid out specific strategies that can be used to improve communication and understanding.
Effective virtual communication techniques everyone can use
Regardless of whether you are deaf, have hearing loss, or no hearing difficulty at all, these tips can make online meetings more effective all around:
1. Pace the meeting appropriately.
If you’re leading the meeting or actively participating, pay attention to the faces of the listeners. Pace your presentation accordingly to allow for full processing of verbal information and visual cues. In general, it’s simpler to manage the pace of a smaller and shorter meeting vs. a larger and longer one.
2. Practice cooperation vs. competition.
Virtual communication is much more effective when one person is speaking or presenting at a time. When multiple people try to speak at once, communication is garbled and it may be difficult to hear or understand what’s being said. Lay clear ground rules regarding the order of the presentation and how to participate if there are questions (i.e. use the ‘raise hand’ feature if someone wants to talk).
3. Expand what’s visible on camera.
Some important parts of virtual communication are lost if the only things seen on camera are the presenter’s head and neck. Expand the camera angle to include both the head and torso so that body language can be used to aid in message comprehension.
4. Use non-verbal language as appropriate.
Mix things up a bit with hand and facial gestures, or other body language to help get your point across. Individuals with hearing loss will especially find these visual cues useful and make virtual communication more effective.
5. Encourage participants to use the ‘Chat’ box.
Most online meeting platforms have a ‘Chat’ box where participants can ask questions or otherwise interact with the presentation. Encourage the use of this tool to aid in understanding or clarification of what’s presented. Sometimes deaf or hard of hearing individuals will miss a key part of the message but they could easily retrieve it simply by using ‘Chat’.
6. Dress for success!
You may not realize how important your clothing is when it comes to effective virtual communication. Nawaz and Cordano recommend wearing clothes that are free of busy patterns or loud colors which could interfere with viewing hand signals or conflict with the speaker’s visual background.
Get professional help for hearing loss
Utilizing the virtual communication strategies above will go a long way toward improving communication and understanding during online meetings. If you have hearing loss and still find it difficult to get the most out of virtual meetings, however, schedule an appointment with your audiologist. It may be time for new hearing aids, adjustments to your current ones, or even another treatment altogether.
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