Something really important happened back in early 2020 that revolutionized human communication. The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it a sudden and drastic halt to so many of our live, real-time human and business interactions.
Many of us were confined to our homes were forced to work remotely. Months passed, and then years passed. We joined many virtual meetings and adjusted.
Adjusting to Virtual Communication
Overnight, virtual meeting platforms took the world by storm, and many of us soon suffered from that digital malady called virtual fatigue. In reality, we were collectively the pioneering digital generation, launching ourselves into the new virtual cyberspace with all the naivety and blissful ignorance that we could possibly muster.
Do You Know What Glossophobia Means?
“Glossophobia” is a term that refers to the fear of presenting and public speaking. Multiple sources report that as high as 77% of the population is glossophobic. What drives this chronic fear, more than anything, is the dynamic between introversion and extroversion. Presenting, negotiating and selling are all extroverted deliverables, which is why introverts tend to be more glossophobic than extroverts.
If you think that Glossophobia was a problem before, now turn on the virtual cameras, let the corporate world invade your home, and become aware of the threat that your virtual broadcasts can be recorded! It is therefore no surprise that in industries that mainly employ introverted people (i.e., tech, financial services, etc.) it quickly became the norm not to turn cameras on in virtual meetings.
Establishing Virtual Etiquette
We are the pioneering virtual generation, and as of yet, there is largely no virtual etiquette nor virtual rules of engagement in place. Many people merely do what feels psychologically safe, convenient and easy. And for many people, that means leaving their cameras off in virtual meetings. That may keep people feeling comfortable, but it’s undoubtedly bad for business.
The first law of marketing is visibility. This means that any product or brand needs to be visible to make an impact. If you don’t turn on your camera, you won’t have a presence in your virtual meetings, and you become incredibly difficult to connect with as a result.
There is another massive problem with cameras being turned off in virtual meetings and presentations. If your audiences’ cameras are turned off, research shows that people are not exactly listening to you. Nor are they present and attentive. Intercall-HBR.org research shows that a massive 47% of your virtual audience may actually have deserted you and your virtual presentation to go to the restroom. So, you may be presenting to yourself ….
How Present Are Your Virtual Audiences?
Americans are generally very outgoing and gregarious culture with showbusiness embedded into their culture and DNA. Americans, thus, tend to score better than many other nations when it comes to turning their cameras on in virtual meetings. But just because people have their cameras on, doesn’t mean that you’re an effective broadcaster.
Only those with broadcasting training are likely to have the new broadcasting skills that all virtual presenters and leaders require. The truth is that virtual communication has turned us all into broadcasters. This means that your old presentation skills training is very limited.
Virtual Presentation Skills: The New Soft Skills Currency
Virtual presentation skills are the new soft skills currency. For the rest of your career, you may very well be working in a hybrid workplace, where at least half of all your meetings, engagements, presentations and pitches remain virtual. Your high-impact meetings and presentations are likely to be live (nothing is as powerful as live, real time presence and engagement), but all your mundane, run-of-the-mill meetings are very likely to remain virtual because virtual meetings and engagements are often more efficient, cost-effective and accessible.
Now that we have established that digital communication skills are the new soft skills currency, what virtual communication skills do you need to learn?
There are two types of digital skills: digital hard skills and digital soft communication skills.
Hard digital skills are technical, practical skills, like how to effectively navigate and use virtual and social media platforms. Hard digital skills also include how to use image editing software, video conferencing, sharing screens, using breakout rooms and more. These are your essential basic digital technical skills. Luckily, these skills are relatively easy to master with a bit of logic, education and practice. Knowing how the technical side works is an essential beginning to start building your digital self-confidence and professionalism in the virtual environment.
Digital soft skills are the more complex and less tangible skills that you need to communicate confidently, clearly and successfully with learners and stakeholders in the online environment. These “soft” communication skills are, ironically, the harder skills to master. They usually require training support from strong digital communication skills programs.
Do You Have Broadcasting Skills?
In terms of communicating on virtual platforms, you now need to elevate your regular presentation skills to include broadcasting skills.
.Ask yourself the following questions to gauge your broadcasting skills:
- Do you know how to get your lighting right for virtual meetings and presentations?
- Do you know how to get your camera angle right?
- Do you know how to sit, stand or position yourself professionally on camera?
- Do know how to get your virtual eye contact right? (This is the hardest virtual soft skill to master, and the most important for building virtual relationships and influencing virtually.)
- Do you know the difference between live body language and virtual body language?
- Do you know how to build digital relationships?
- Do you know how to present virtually (which is not the same as presenting live)?
- Do you know how to lead teams virtually and manage employees virtually?
- Do you know how to keep your virtual audiences engaged?
Where to From Here?
You are probably overwhelmed by just trying to comprehend, let alone answer, some of the questions and digital communication considerations raised above: Please don’t be. This is our current communication reality. Humanity has taken a sudden and unexpected quantum leap into digital cyberspace. We are now settled here, and we shall continue to build on this new hybrid communication foundation. This is our new “telephone,” and it is not going away.
There are communication training companies and highly skilled digital communication trainers that can teach you these vital new digital communication skills that will support and build your career for the rest of your work life. The good news is that these digital communication skills are fairly easy to learn and to apply. The important thing to remember, however, is that this is one development investment that you definitely need to make.