The power of communication can never be underestimated. Rubi Kaur FBCS spoke to Christopher Wickenden of Speakers’ Gym, experts in communication, culture and business change, on how IT professionals can become better communicators, especially during times of remote working.

The ability to speak and present in front of a crowd or with your own fellow workers can, for some, seem like an incredibly daunting task. More often than not, the information presented by IT professionals can be very technical and detailed. Throw in communicating and presenting - all of this over a zoom meeting - and it becomes a little bit trickier and more stressful. But it doesn’t need to be.

Why is exceptional communication so important in the virtual world?

Exceptional communication is always important, but perhaps even more so in the virtual world.

In this virtual world, screen fatigue is real. We run the risk of alienating our workforces if we don’t truly take the time to understand their needs and how they best want to be kept engaged.

And to make matters more challenging, every workforce is different. Every individual in that workforce is different. There’s no ‘one size fits all’; if we don’t get the communication right, people will retreat and disconnect. Without the physical base, work will just become that thing that you log into during the day and then wholly detach from. The more siloed our workforces, the less happy, inspired, creative and productive they become.

Tell us more about the human connection, when communicating

Too often, in a professional context, we tend to view communication as imparting information. There’s a heavy focus on your own credibility and reliability, and we miss the all-important factor of intimacy - ultimately, how we make people feel - that closeness, that connection, that rapport. Meeting that essential human need that we discuss above.

I love this quote from Maya Angelou - ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.’ It’s just so true and right at the core of how you build trust with people. Maister’s trust equation is brilliant as it makes these less tangible, ‘human’ elements of communication somewhat more tangible for us.

The trust equation

A focus on Intimacy is key - particularly in the remote working environment. It’s how you keep colleagues and clients connected to each other and the shared business purpose.

We can no longer rely on the incidental intimacy created from simply being in the same place. We need to meet the challenge, transcending the barrier of communicating through technology to replicate face-to-face contact.

How can we become better communicators in the virtual world?

The good thing is that all of the essentials that make great communication face-to-face - authenticity, clarity of purpose, presence, generosity - stand up in the virtual world. They will always take centre stage. However, there are a few more technical requirements to acknowledge.

It’s even more important to respect HOW different people like to be communicated with - the regularity, the medium - even the time of day. Know your audience. Nowadays, we’re spending so much time on screen and, as I said, it can be exhausting. So, generally keeping comms shorter and more targeted is better. Clarify the aims and objectives in advance. I tend to use the very simple framework WHAT - WHY - HOW to keep me on track.

Put simply: What is the subject of the meeting? Why are we having it and what are we aiming to achieve? How will we go about doing that? Sharing that framework in advance and keeping meetings to 30 minutes or less really manages expectations. Again, it’s all about generosity. It’s very rare that I’ll ever come away thinking, ‘oh I wish that meeting or presentation was just 15 minutes longer!’

Why do we fear communicating in this way and do we need to be perfect ?

We fear communicating in this way, because ultimately, it requires a comfort with vulnerability. Whilst vulnerability is essential to great communication, it’s also very exposing. It lays us open to rejection and our ego fears this. But without a willingness to embrace it and to show up as ourselves, we can never build meaningful relationships. That goes for communicating with an audience too. The less we view it as something that we are ‘doing’ to them and the more we view it as entering into an authentic relationship, the better.

Do we need to be perfect? Absolutely not. We need to be authentic and human to connect. Perfection really isn’t very human at all. Any obsession with it will only put up a barrier to true connection. To refer to the trust equation above, it’s also very self-orientated.