Originally published in 2020 on Mandel Communications' blog.
As the workplace continues to be transformed, effective communications skills training is essential as hybrid work becomes the norm for most companies. So how can we help teams working remotely communicate more effectively? Missteps are common, and that creates potential problems for employers and their workforces.
Applying dated, office-only business communication methods in this new age of hybrid work is a surefire way to reduce your employees’ ability to collaborate across physical and digital workspaces. It can also lead to less engaged and connected teams.
At Mandel, we provided countless companies and organizations with effective communications skills training for the hybrid workplace. We’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. So, we’ve put together this list of common mistakes professionals should work to avoid – along with tips to help remote teams communicate better and stay connected. These apply wherever people are working virtually with others, whether that’s from their corporate office, remote working from home, or dialing in from a hoteling workspace while on the road.
5 Common Communication Mistakes Remote Workers Make – And How to Fix Them
Here’s our list of communications pitfalls to steer clear of and how your remote workers can overcome them:
Mistake #1: Don’t Follow the Basics to Keep Virtual Teams Engaged in Remote Meetings
Many companies shifted to meeting remotely when COVID-19 first swept across the U.S. in the early months of 2020, a trend that has continued. According to Atlassian, employees spend 31 hours a month in unproductive meetings and consider half of all meetings a waste of time.
It’s no wonder that their research revealed that nearly half of all workers find remote meetings a waste of time. So, how do you keep virtual meetings and conference calls from being unproductive and ensure they aren’t contributing to digital fatigue?
- Question whether the meeting is truly necessary before you hold it – especially standing weekly meetings.
- Have a clear agenda and only invite relevant people who need to be there.
- Be sure to start and finish every meeting on time – ideally shave off 5-10 minutes to give people a break between meetings.
- Record or transcribe meetings for those who can’t attend and future reference.
- Ask everyone to turn on their video for better engagement and use the mute option when you are not speaking to prevent distractions.
Mistake #2: Forget the Importance of Delivery in Effective Virtual Communication
Whether it’s showing bored or frustrated facial expressions, closed body language, or the tone of the verbal communication, poor delivery skills broaden the communications gaps between on-site staff and employees working from home.
No matter if communicating with a small team or a large audience, everyone from C-suite executives to frontline workers need to know how to deliver their messages in a clear, convincing way, while conveying ideas more effectively.
The good news? Anyone can improve their virtual delivery skills with these helpful tips.
- Plan how you will start and end your presentation or comments in a meeting for impact.
- Use a mirror to practice relaxing your face to look more natural.
- Practice enunciating better by opening your mouth wider when speaking.
- Use pitch and inflection in your voice to stress points in your message.
- Pinpoint types of language to avoid (for example, be sensitive to exclusionary gender- or race-related terms).
Mistake #3: Give the Same-Old Boring Virtual Presentations
Strong presentations are fundamental to the success of every type of business. Whether it’s informing or educating your team on a current initiative, providing a progress update on a project to the board or delivering a keynote speech at an industry conference, presentations are critical events that can make or break projects, deals, and even careers.
Presenting can cause anxiety in even some of the most self-assured individuals. Plus, many seasoned executives and experienced salespeople who are skilled at pitching their ideas to external audiences struggle to connect with and win over team members and employees. This is especially true when they don’t prepare for presentations in the same way they do for clients and partners.
Virtual presentations are even more challenging, often resulting in bored audiences that are unable to remain focused and end up multi-tasking and only half listening. The following handful of strategies can make a difference anyone seeking to grab and keep their audience’s attention – whether you are delivering remotely or in the office speaking to teams working remotely:
- Practice your presentation and the tech tools you’ll use in advance
- Keep your delivery concise and break up longer spans with activities with questions or activities to keep your audience engaged
- Made slides clear, concise and visually appealing. Don’t go overboard with graphics or animations and use slides sparingly
- Consider asking questions in advance to understand your audience’s areas of interest and be better prepared for your presentation
- Have a moderator or assistant on with you to monitor and field questions or handle any technical issues
Check out some additional tips and advice on nailing remote presentations.
Mistake #4: Not Using the Power of Video to Your Advantage
According to Deloitte’s 2022 Digital Media Trends survey, roughly four in 10 Americans say they spend more time watching user-generated video content than movies and TV shows on video streaming services — that number increases to about 60 percent among millennials and Gen Zers.
That speaks to the power of video, which drives more engagement than any other form of content, providing people who use it the ability to keep viewers locked in. When used effectively, playing a quick video can transform virtual meetings from boring and ineffectual to attention-grabbing and productive. And informative clips from your virtual meetings can also be shared out to others across your company.
Here are a few places to start when prepping to record great video to bring into remote meetings:
- Start with a concept, then write a good script and record yourself reading it.
- Make sure that you have good lighting, both in front of you and behind you
- Keep your backdrop clean by tidying up any clutter or using a blur or virtual background.
- Consider your clothing. Stripes and bold patterns tend not be camera friendly.
- Check yourself out in the mirror before recording or streaming starts to polish your appearance.
Mistake #5: Allowing All-Text Slides to Dominate Remote Presentations
A common reason business audiences are suffering from so-called ‘death by PowerPoint’ is there are far too many presentations filled with text-heavy slides that force viewers to dedicate more focus to reading the written content than paying attention to what’s being said by the presenter. This creates a bad experience whether you are all in a room together or it’s a hybrid meeting. There are some rules to make it easier for audiences to understand dense or technical content and not overwhelm them with slides.
- Remember the importance of utilizing white space to allow some breathing room.
- Apply line breaks liberally to break up long blocks of text and pauses in your delivery so they have time to read and absorb the material.
- Use bold type selectively to emphasize important words.
- Employ short bulleted lists that quickly identify key points
- Phoneticize spellings of hard-to-pronounce words and names
And make sure some sections of your talk don’t have any slides, so people have some breaks.
Help Remote Teams Communicate Better: Effective Communication Skills Training is Key to Solving Hybrid Work Pain Points
Effective communication in the workplace can help strengthen employee connections and collaboration, improve staff productivity, and increase opportunities for growth. Learn more about how we can help you to level up your remote and hybrid teams with communication skills training.