We would all rather be communicating and connecting in person but, sometimes, that is simply not possible or even preferable for a variety of reasons.
Great leaders must be able to connect with any audience—regardless of the platform. The decisions around how we engage with each other, be it in person or remote, will be dictated more and more by issues involving logistics, travel, economics and individual preference.
The need to communicate and connect in a remote world is an essential leadership requirement, so let’s consider some practical tips and tools in this area:
Find the camera: I know it feels more comfortable to look at others on the screen when you are communicating, but when you do this, you are not making eye contact with your audience. The only way to connect with your audience is not by looking at them on your screen, but rather by looking directly into the camera, which is near the green or red dot on your device. That is how others see you looking at them and making “eye contact.”
Be concise and clear: In remote communication, many leaders and team members are distracted. Our attention span is shorter. We wander. So, get to the point faster. Lead shorter meetings. Don’t drone on. If you have a five- or six-minute presentation that you’ve planned, turn it into a three-minute presentation. Simply put: edit yourself.
Engage them: In a remote setting, people must be engaged. The longer you hear one person’s voice in a remote setting, the more likely your audience is to become disengaged and disconnected. Get others talking. Ask more open-ended questions of individual team members. This takes practice, persistence and assertiveness. But engaging others pays off big time in the remote world.
Cut down or eliminate your PowerPoint: Only use PowerPoint if it adds a lot to your presentation. Realize that as soon as you opt to use PowerPoint, you minimize the screen of participants. The PowerPoint takes over, and the meeting participants are usually in a narrow column along the righthand side of your screen. Your PowerPoint slide often becomes another barrier between you and your audience.
Lean in: Get closer to the camera. Fill up your screen, especially when presenting. You wouldn’t sit back in your chair or lean back in an in-person presentation, rather, you would lean in. You must do the same in a remote setting, which takes practice and self-awareness.
Bring your passion: People need to not just see but also feel how strongly you believe what you are saying. That takes passion and, yes, energy. Low key, remote communication has its place, particularly when dealing with sensitive or difficult issues, but when you are engaging and trying to persuade your audience in a remote setting, a lack of passion can be deadly.
Be present: Eliminate your distractions. Most of us can admit that, in a remote meeting, we have occasionally checked e-mails and text messages. But I’ve also come to realize that especially when the stakes are high in a remote meeting, the need to be present and focused is more critical than ever.
Slow down: Because you are in a remote setting, sometimes it is harder to understand exactly what you are saying. Pausing and using deliberate, annunciated communication is critical to having the message sent be the message received. Fast talkers who often sound as if they are jumbling words together can give the impression that they are either nervous or are frankly not that concerned about others understanding them.
Steve Adubato’s Lessons in Leadership with Joe Roth, President and CEO, NJ Sharing Network and Louis P. Masur, PhD, Board of Governors, Professor of American Studies and History, Rutgers University.
Steve Adubato and Mary Gamba are joined by Joe Roth, President and CEO, NJ Sharing Network, talking about the importance of becoming an organ donor and the NJ Sharing Network #DonationNeedsDiversity program. Then, Steve talks with Louis P. Masur, PhD, Board of Governors, Professor of American Studies and History, Rutgers University, about the documentary, “Lincoln: Divided We Stand,” and why Abraham Lincoln was a great leader.