5 Tips for Effective Online Communication
Communication is one of the most important skills you require for a successful life’ – Catherine Pulsifer
Effective communication is a crucial part of any job – it helps us to relay our ideas clearly and build connections with the people we work with. Telecommuting has fundamentally changed everyday communication. Instead of popping by a colleague’s cubicle for a chat or attending on-site team meetings, many of us have come to rely on video conferencing and online messaging tools.
The constraints of this digital barrier mean that employees have to learn how to adapt their communication skills at work to meet the limitations of telecommuting. Here are 5 ways you can improve your online communication skills.
Build a likeable online persona
Being approachable online is the first key to effective communication. Telecommuting means that we can’t rely as much on body language or tone to express how we feel. Hence, it’s important to breach this digital barrier by conveying friendliness, empathy and professionalism through the online persona we create for ourselves.
Maintaining basic etiquette can do wonders. Something as simple as starting conversations with a greeting and acknowledging the work your coworkers do can help to foster goodwill and build friendships.
Listening to others is also an integral part of online communication. It’s important to remind ourselves that any conversation (including telecommuting) is a two-way street. Being patient with others and making them feel heard and appreciated speaks volumes of your conduct at work online.
Know your netiquette
We talked about etiquette, now it’s time to explore ‘netiquette’. We all have our quirks when it comes to online communication but there are a few general rules to abide by especially when miscommunication is more likely to occur online.
There’s an endless list of netiquette rules but one of the most fundamental expectations is understanding tone. Make a conscious note of who you’re talking to and whether it’s appropriate to employ a formal or informal tone. If you’re conversing with a client, or your boss, you might want to take a more formal tone that conveys courteousness. Conversely, if you’re having an informal chat with a work friend or a close colleague, an overly formal tone might come across as unfriendly or clinical.
Here are a few additional netiquette rules to consider:
- Don’t type in ALL CAPS. It can make your message come across as hostile.
- Emojis can help to add some emotion to your text. However, only use them where you deem appropriate.
- Sarcasm (which is often dependent on tone and delivery) might not be well-received online. Instead of being perceived as humorous it can come across as rude at times.
Keep it concise and precise
Whether you’re answering a work email or chipping in your two cents worth during a Zoom call, keeping your input clear and concise helps others to understand your point of view better. An increased reliance on telecommuting means that any gap in communication or minor details will have to be expressed online with greater clarity and emphasis.
Telecommuting can distort the way we naturally communicate. From technical difficulties to surrounding distractions, it’s much easier to lose track of what someone is saying online. Getting to the point provides others with some airtime to voice their feedback and opinions, especially when meeting schedules are tight.
Don’t be afraid to get to the point! Express the point of your statement at the beginning before providing a short elaboration. Remember that formatting matters too – a visually cluttered wall of text quickly puts off any reader. Make sure to space out your content using paragraphs.
Lastly, write to express and not to impress. Sometimes, shorter and simpler sentences (as compared to bombastic lingo) help to convey your message in a more coherent manner. Help your reader to understand your needs better by reducing unnecessary phrases or information.
Use visual aids
As explored, discussions can be hard to follow online. Help others to stay on track with the use of visual aids. This can be in the form of presentation slides, virtual whiteboards to infographics. Visual aids are also a great way to do recaps and summaries of your points. This way, you can ensure that your audience remembers the key takeaways from your presentation!
Pay attention to body language
Reading body language online takes practice. Unlike in-person conversations, it can be much harder to pick up on subtle physical cues.
While speaking, pay attention to others’ expressions and non-verbal cues. Do they look confused? Do they seem to have trouble hearing you? Do they seem disengaged? These small observations can help you to clarify any doubt or issues that others may have at the back of their minds.
This provides you with an opportunity to pause your presentation and provide others with some airtime and space to ask questions. You can also try to make your presentations more open-ended so as to encourage others to voice their opinions.
Of course, being able to stay focused on your presentation while consciously interpreting non-verbal cues definitely takes practice! It’s an essential skill that ensures everyone on your call is on the same page.
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