COVID-19 has ushered in a new virtual age for businesses and consumers alike. The pandemic has profoundly altered the way we do business and some of these behavioral changes are here to stay for the foreseeable future ladies and gentlemen.
If businesses don’t prepare for this new digital reality and learn how to virtually stand out from the crowd and learn effective virtual communication, they are at risk of losing revenue and valuable clients.
As this pandemic was in its preliminary stages, The Fedderson Formula began to do extensive statistical analysis and research to determine what skills impact virtual communication the most. I am so excited to be sharing these incredible findings with you! In this article, I will share the top 4 skills that have the strongest correlation with effective virtual communication.
"Human connection matters now more than ever- 82% of consumers want more of it now. Today 59% of consumers feel that companies have now lost touch with the human element."
-PWC Research Study
A Concerned Client
About a week ago, I got a DM from a former client. We will call her Pam. In the message she wrote,
“Stuart, thanks again for presenting to us at our local AAPC conference and teaching us such valuable public speaking and communication skills. Back in March we transitioned to a virtual office environment due to COVID. It’s a bummer because COVID hit just a couple of weeks after your seminar and so I didn’t get a lot of time to apply the communication skills you taught. I can’t wait to get back into the office so I can start applying your formula in person”
I responded to Pam and wrote,
“Don’t let the virtual environment hold you back from fulfilling your public speaking, communication, and social presence potential! In our virtual world, the communication skills you learned are that much more important to apply. The virtual environment is challenging our ability to connect human to human. Therefore, the need for exception speakers and communicators has increased substantially with us being in the virtual environment. Public Speaking skills are Virtual Speaking skills and Virtual Speaking skills are Public speaking skills. With the exception of where they are being employed along with a few minor contextual implications, the application of these skills are the same and will still give you the upper hand and a substantial edge in your personal and professional life. The need for strong communicators is much greater now in a virtual environment than it ever was in an in-person environment."
The Importance of Human Connection
In March of 2020, as the COVID 19 Pandemic was in it’s preliminary stages in the U.S. I was working for Duke University Health. I remember the day when we all received the announcement that we were now required to work from home until further notice. Of course this was a shock to me because I was unsure how I was going lead my team virtually. Would they still be engaged? Would they still feel like they are contributing to Duke’s mission? How would I help them feel part of the team in a virtual environment? On top of that, how was this new virtual norm going to affect The Fedderson Formula and all of my in-person clients? I mean I had a huge toolkit of communication and public speaking skills at my disposal that I was using on a day to day basis in an in-person setting. What was I to do?
I dove into my curriculum and formula for some ideas. As I was reviewed my formula I came to the conclusion that all of the skills found in my curriculum could be integrated virtually are just as, if not more relevant to apply in the virtual world.
Allow me to explain… We have an innate human need to connect with other human beings. My formula was designed to fulfill that need and more. With the business world going more virtual, that basic human need to connect can be a challenge. Therefore, to gain the upper hand and stand out to our stakeholders, co-workers, and customers, we need to learn how to connect human to human in a virtual world.
I got to work. I started out by drafting a survey in which I listed the communication skills in my curriculum. I then sent this out to my network of about 500 constituents and clients. Each participant was asked to rank each communication skill on a scale of 1-10. 1 being that the skill had little impact on effective virtual communication and 10 being that the skill had a large impact on effective virtual communication
After collecting the survey results for about two weeks, it was time to start my favorite part. Brace yourself because I am about to go into full on nerd mode here. Using regression and correlation analysis, I determined the top 4 skills that had the largest impact on effective virtual communication.
The results were astonishing!!
Let’s start with a little statistics lesson first.
I will be referring to a term called R-squared. R-squared is a formula to determine how much independent variables (the communication skills) impact the dependent variable (virtual communication). The higher the R-squared, the larger the impact. The lower the R-squared, the lower the impact.
I performed the R-squared on the skills in my curriculum and pulled the top 4. Let’s start at the skill that came out with the 4rth largest impact.
4. Virtual Eye Contact
Eye Contact resulted in an R-squared of 80%. Eye contact? Wait… people thought that eye contact was associated with a strong virtual presence? I reached out to a few of my clients with some follow up questions to gain further clarification. They mentioned how difficult a virtual call can be because most folks don’t have their camera on and so the facilitator has no idea how engaged people actually are. And if their cameras were on, they couldn’t see the others because of bad lighting or the person was looking at their other computer screens multitasking or fixing their hair because they see themselves on the screen.
A study done by HighFive and Zogby Analytics found that 59% of adults reported feeling more self-conscious on camera versus in person. This can lead to spending too much time looking at your image in a video call. Sound familiar?
Therefore, my first piece of advice is to maintain eye contact with those in the meeting by actually looking at your camera lens when speaking while glancing at others on the call every now and again to make sure they are still engaged.
My second piece of advice is to do this to your camera. (See below).
This is a picture of my webcam I have in my office. As you can see, I placed some of my favorite people on my camera as seen above to remind me to maintain eye contact.
3. Virtual Engagement
The skill that had the 3rd largest impact on virtual communication was Virtual Audience Engagement. It resulted in an R-squared of 81%. After discussing this with some of my clients, it was determined that virtual audience engagement is a blanket form for how interested your audience is in your virtual content and how much they take part in your virtual content. Your main objective here is to make your virtual content soooo good that the attendees cannot multitask.
Some of my recommendations to hold the audiences’ attention are:
1. Ask thought provoking questions
2. Use video
3. Use the chat room
4. Use polling features
2. Virtual Body Language
The skill that came in with the 2nd largest impact on virtual communication was strong virtual body language. This resulted in an R-squared of 83%. Again, remember the cart before the horse here. To exhibit and observe body language, the cameras have to be on so make it a ground rule for all of your virtual engagements that the camera stay on to maintain strong virtual presence.
It’s a well known fact that 55% of our communication is done through our body language so if we are not able to see the others in the meeting, then, per that percentage, we are losing out on 55% of our communication.
A few tips I give clients here are:
1. If you want to stand out in a virtual call, stand up! I mean stand up out of your chair so that you can own more space and establish strong presence. Also make that spine long and strong for strong posture.
2. Reach out using some hand gestures such as open palms and one of my favorite gestures, The Object Lesson, which is using your hands to show emphasis while talking.
The number 1 skill that had the largest impact on virtual presence was…. Drum roll please….
Individuality resulted in an R-squared of 84%, therefore signaling the highest correlation with effective virtual communication.
Individuality is a key component in my formula and so when I saw this one fall into the number one spot, I can’t say I was not surprised.
Individuality in my formula is the overall character and authenticity of a speaker or communicator that distinguishes him/her from others.
A speaker's authentic self can be made apparent through declarations of belief, original ideas, personal stories, and unique experiences.
Some recommendations I give clients to bring our your individuality are:
1. Bust down the conformity and have fun
2. Crack jokes in the audience’s favor
3. Share stories
4. Be creative and think outside the virtual box.
Alright so let’s recap the top 4 skills that have the greatest impact on strong virtual communication.
1. Virtual Individuality
2. Virtual Body Language
3. Virtual Audience Engagement,
4. Virtual Eye Contact.
Again, I can’t stress the urgency of these skills enough. If we do not jump on the virtual presence bandwagon and apply these virtual speaking and communication skills, we are at risk of not being able to connect human to human. If we are not connecting human to human, we are at risk of not fulfilling the basic human need. If we are not fulfilling a basic human need, we are at risk of losing clients, customers, employees, and therefore operating revenue.
Remember, this is just the tip of the virtual communication ice burg. I have a whole workshop that dives deeper into my statistical research so please visit my website, fill out the form, and let’s get started! I have both in-person and virtual workshop options to choose from.
As always remember to Stand Up, Stand out, Inspire, and Transform and be sure to share this to spread the virtual love!