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Good old communication skills still matter in new formats

/ 05:01 AM May 21, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic transported business communication, teaching, socializing and even going to church to video conference platforms. The transition has not been an easy one with communicators still pining for the live engagement of a conference room, classroom or venue stage or struggling with the technology and skills needed for a decent lecture, sermon or presentation.

Audiences have also gone through video fatigue, having to sit through sometimes endless strings of meetings or classes.

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It’s important to note that as long as the pandemic is still around, online presenting and communicating will continue. For how long will depend on how well we all handle this health crisis.

I would like to think though that the convenience of having participants locked into attendance (unless they have another video meeting or pressing concern) will continue in some form, postpandemic. The hassle of traffic and traveling to meetings, presentations or events will encourage video formats in new hybrid forms in the years ahead.

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There are significant differences between our old ways of face-to-face communication and the current online formats.

But let me tell you as well that many of the old skills we used are still very useful in a Zoom, Streamyard, Google Meet or any other video meeting platform.

What are those basics that will continue to help you deliver your message?

1. Being clear and concise. Nobody likes a presentation they don’t understand and more so a long-winded one. It’s hard by itself to sit through another video meeting at length and it’s a punishment to have to listen in to one that’s lengthy and disorganized. Creating a concise, well-prepared pitch or lecture always resonates better with audiences.

2. Speak with one person, one box at the same time. Those who complain about the current communication context we’re in are distraught with the seeming divided attention of attendees and the closed video screens because of connectivity or privacy issues. Those are audience realities we will have to deal with unless you’re doing an exercise with your audience where you have to have attendees bring their screens down.

We must try to continue communicating well. It’s like what newscasters and other online presenters go through. They do not actually see their audiences through the camera lens but they know that someone is out there viewing or listening.

We speak with one listener at a time, even in a multitude. The same in the online setting: We speak with one person, one box at a time.

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3. Have a conversation with your audience. Perhaps this is more pronounced now that our audiences are in boxes rather than in corporate chairs or classrooms. When we present an idea, lecture or proposal, we are not making a speech, more so in the video conference format. Many listen through headphones or ear plugs, and thus a conversation is more apt, rather a speech or a performance.

4. Stay simple with your slide deck. The unevenness of digital connections in the country and elsewhere in the world can wreak havoc on a slide deck that accompanies a pitch or presentation. So what’s the best thing to do? You can still share a slide deck but keep the effects (animations, transitions and the like) to a minimum. I usually just use dissolves and even cuts to make transitions.

Messy and cluttered slides with too much information, pictures or numbers were a pain to go through in our face-to-face days. It’s even more difficult to go through decks that are so disorganized as you try to stay alert in a video conference.

5. Being polite and understanding still matters. The basics of good business meeting behavior still apply in the video conference platform context. We all know that online conversations have many overlapping instances, especially when two or three people want to talk. With mics on, it can be challenging to manage a meeting, even if prior instructions indicate that only the chair of the meeting can acknowledge responders. The video format disallows us to see nonverbal signals from our participants so it’s still good to be gracious and polite if you’re presenting, lecturing, teaching or hosting a meeting.

In time and when we all come together to beat this pandemic, we will gradually return to face-to-face meetings, classes or events. But I am sure we will still have some use for the video formats we currently engage in. Our old good communication habits and skills will blend quite well with the new ways we learned in video formats during this pandemic. —CONTRIBUTED INQThe author has been a broadcaster and communication professor for the last 35 years. He will teach an online workshop “Power Up Your Presentations” for four Saturday modules this June. Those interested can drop by bit.ly/powerupclass.

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