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Communicating through cyberspace

on Tuesday, 14 July 2020. Posted in People

Former television broadcaster Arti Halai chats to management coaching company Vistage about the differences between connecting with an audience online and meeting them face-to-face.

Communicating through cyberspace

Former television broadcaster Arti Halai chats to management coaching company Vistage about the differences between connecting with an audience online and meeting them face-to-face.

It’s impossible to predict what life will look like after Covid-19.

And it’s not even certain if there will be an ‘after Covid-19’, or whether we will all have to accept its dangerous existence for many years to come.

Unless a vaccine can be found and manufactured in huge quantities, to keep the world’s population safe from this terrible virus, life will never return to the way it was pre-lockdown.

Social-distancing may be here to stay and everything else that comes with it!

The future is extremely unclear, and there is every chance that business meetings will continue to take place online.

Looking ahead, there’s a strong possibility that employees will continue to undertake more work from home, with business leaders, CEOs and managing directors conducting their meetings with the help of their laptops.

Zoom, Microsoft Teams and other software platforms such as Cisco Webex will become the norm going forward.

But how will this change, if at all, the way business leaders communicate with their workforce?

Will their words carry the same impact online, as they do in face-to-face gatherings?

Video calls certainly present a challenge for leaders. It’s far more difficult to connect with an audience through a computer screen.

And, of course, no one really knows how words, tone and body language will be translated via video.

One company which specialises in helping top executives connect with their middle management, and also improve their decision-making abilities, is Vistage.

Founded more than 60 years ago in Milwaukee, Vistage now operate in many countries around the world, including the UK, and has been helping CEOs, business owners and key executives to solve their toughest challenges.

Vistage recently met with a former national broadcaster, who is now an entrepreneur, to talk about the challenges of communicating via video.

Former ITN News presenter Arti Halai is the co-founder of the Fleet Street Group and she now coaches top-level executives.

This is her advice for those moving online to carry out their day-to-day business duties.

Arti says: “One of the best ways to get comfortable is to record yourself.

“Use the camera on your laptop or iPad to see what you look like and how you come across.

“You might not like speaking on camera, but you can get comfortable with it. You need to get to a place where you are able to focus on the message, rather than worrying about how you come across.

"Be really clear about what you want to say and the format you’re going to use. Are you going to invite others to speak?

“Are you going to take questions as you go along, or at the end? That needs to be reflected in your agenda.

“And finally, before you press the connect button, take some deep breaths and smile.

“As any radio or TV presenter will tell you, before they go live they will smile because it helps to relax the facial muscles.”

According to Arti, it’s also important to find a suitable backdrop, especially nowadays when many more people are linking up with colleagues from their own homes – maybe in their kitchen, study or living room.

She continues: “We are very visual creatures. Your surroundings are really important.

“Make sure your surroundings are neat and tidy, and that the lighting is good.

“Don’t sit in front of a window because you’ll simply become a silhouette.

“Think about the angle of the camera. Try not to lean into the shot, just sit upright in the centre of your seat. Position your camera at eye-level.”

She also explains how it is vital to express yourself more when connecting with someone online, than if holding a face-to-face conversation in a boardroom.

Arti goes on: “The key about using the visual medium is that things do need to be magnified.

“The way you speak in every day conversation has to be turned up a couple of notches, in order to make an impact on video.

“The same goes for your facial expression. Video calls tend to focus on the head and shoulders, but body language is important too. Use your hands to help you get your point across.

“But beware, as hands can look really big if they get too close to the camera.”

One of the major problems when connecting via video, especially if the audience needs to concentrate and be particularly attentive – as is usually the case at boardroom level – is viewer fatigue.

Arti points out: "Nobody wants to sit on Zoom for an hour or two. Keeping things short and simple is really important.

“Weave in a break after 20 or 30 minutes, and be mindful of fatigue which can set in very quickly.”

However, Arti insists ‘don’t get stressed out about communicating online.’

Her message is simple: “The good news is that the fundamentals of effective communication remain the same, particularly in a crisis.

“Those fundamentals are this: Remember to use predominantly short and clear messages, delivered frequently, and with care and empathy.

“Leaders are used to using business jargon or pragmatic, practical language. But I think there is room for emotive language right now.

“This is a great moment for leaders to be able to express how they’re feeling.

“That makes it a bit easier to talk about your feelings and to connect with people’s concerns and fears.

“Crisis can produce great leaders. Your approach and behaviour, the words that you use, the actions that you are taking, can all restore faith.

“They can provide hope and they can pave a new way forward.”

This article comes courtesy of Vistage, the world's most comprehensive executive coaching organisation for SME businesses. Solutions are tailor made for all leadership levels, including CEOs, senior executives, business owners and emerging leaders.

Vistage would like to invite the readers of Elite Business to an exclusive lunchtime webinar, delivered by Arti Halai, titled "Reputation - Managing your greatest asset". Click here to register for free.

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