Communication Matters
APRIL 2020
Virtual Communication: Three Tips for Online Success
man on webinar virtual meeting
Well, that changed quickly, didn’t it?! Since our last monthly connection, the world is a different place. Travel is curtailed, toilet paper (?!) is in short supply, and anything that was once done face-to-face (training, sales, general meetings, interviews) has been moved quickly to the web. With no end in sight, online communication is a part of our new reality.
Since I was involved in my first web meeting over twenty years ago, I’ve harbored the view that it is probably the most difficult environment to be a great communicator in. The principles of communication don’t change with the environment. But being online adds many difficult parameters and those who are marginal presenters in person may fail miserably on the web. It’s (relatively) easy to pull off a web meeting; it’s (very) difficult to make it matter and come out with the results you want.
Here are three tips for making your new virtual world feel more like the real world.

1. Dress for work
I’ve found that I need to treat my workday, well, like a workday. Get out of the PJs and the bunny slippers. Set deadlines. Bathe, shave, and comb the hair. I don’t hear (or at least rarely hear) people apologize for their appearance during in-person meetings. Why should that change in the online environment (for a treatise on how and when to feature something, see this article entitled How to handle blunders and mistakes from the stage). Years ago I went to Disney for a high school graduation event (Grad Night). Disney made us all dress in coats and ties (dresses or pantsuits) because they recognized that we’d act better if we dressed better. It’s true in the work-from-home world as well.
2.   Avoid distractions
In the online world, side windows are the norm. Browsers, email readers, and unrelated documents are open. But I wouldn’t sit in a meeting with a client and compose an email to someone outside the room. So why is that OK online? What feels like multitasking is really another way of not giving your attention to the people in the “room”. Meetings are more productive when people are fully engaged. Be fully present where you are.
3.    Make the meeting matter
This tip comes from our Powerful Meetings workshop. It’s good advice for any meeting and it applies splendidly to online meetings.  Have objectives, not agendas. Agendas appear to mean that people will talk. And talk. And talk. Objectives have an outcome (make a decision or brainstorm ten new revenue ideas, for example). When the outcome is accomplished, the meeting can end. Everyone likes outcomes. Everyone who doesn’t just love to hear themselves talk loves the end of a meeting. If we don’t know what we’ll accomplish, then we won’t know when we’re done. Some really BAD objectives (because they can’t be measured, and probably never end) include:
  • Discuss
  • Review
  • Update
  • Give an overview
  • Talk about
  • Introduce
  • Present about
  • Take questions
  • Wrap up
  • Offer feedback
  • Go through (PowerPoint)
  • Explain
  • Hammer out
When I was a full-time trainer in corporate, we were challenged to write course objectives without the words “learn” or “understand”. The same principle is in effect here. Find a more powerful reason to meet than simply talking (most of these bad objectives above could be accomplished better in an email and save everyone the hassle and waste of time of a boring meeting).

WARNING: If a meeting was going to be bad in person, it will be even WORSE online.
Time Watch
4.      OK, I’m past my three tips but couldn’t miss an opportunity for this one: End on time!
This is the one immovable rule we teach (in the Western world). There is absolutely no reason for a well-run meeting (or talk) to run over its posted time. End on time (or early) and treat your audience with the respect they deserve. They may even come back for another meeting!

What have you found works in an online environment? Check in with us on Twitter or LinkedIn to add your thoughts.

I believe one lasting side effect of this new world we live in is that online meetings will become more of a fixture in our lives. Let’s learn to do them well.
Communication matters. What are you saying?
FREE! Eleven-page Guide just for you!
Virtual Communication:
Mastering the Online Meeting
Practical Tips for Success 
We’ve created a full, 11-page guide for mastering the online meeting that includes more in-depth tips and practical elements for success. As a thanks to you for being a loyal Communication Matters newsletter subscriber, we’re offering this guide to you as a free download.

This Guide addresses five main topics:
  • Getting Ready to Meet 
  • Your Equipment and Setup
  • Skills to Make You a Star on the Web
  • Content and Facilitation
  • Ending Well
Upcoming Workshops
Corporate Workshops
Bring us in to your organization to hold any of of our public workshops or custom training for your group.
Personal Coaching
We offer a variety of one-on-one coaching packages to meet your needs, including virtual coaching!
Public Workshops
May 4-5
Aug 24-25
Nov 16-17
May 6
Sneak Peek Video
Here's a sneak peek video at what a PPS workshop from MillsWyck Communications is really like:
MillsWyck Minute Podcast:
Prepare for Technology Failure
Alan gives you tips on what to do when (not if) your technology fails!
Need a Speaker for your Conference, Meeting, or Event?
Keynotes / Breakouts / Workshops
  • Communication
  • Presentation Skills
  • Coaching
  • Sales Presentations
  • Leadership
Visit for more.
Follow me on Twitter!
MillsWyck Communications
Communication matters. What are YOU saying?
Alan Hoffler, Philorator (Teacher & Lover of Speaking)
(919) 386-9238 

Alan Hoffler is the Executive Director and Principal Trainer at MillsWyck Communications. He is a Trainer, Speaker, Author, and Coach who passionately moves others to effective and engaging communication.