This is second in a series related to why the best intentions to communicate effectively sometimes go arry. Communication is much, much more than speaking a common language. In our first blog, we addressed some of the people aspects related to good communication. In this post, I share some of the pitfalls relating to the actual infrastructure of calls as well as good practices that support great communication. This is especially important when working with global teams.
- Video (Presenter & Recipient): Visual communication adds a lot of detail to the communication process. You can see who’s speaking, their facial expressions, and other non verbal interactions. For example, the same word can convey criticism or a joke. Facial expressions can help you decipher the truth.
Recommendation: Depending on bandwidth, High Definition video can distort audio quality. My recommendation is to configure your camera to use minimum quality. It is much more effective on calls with video than ones without it, even if the video is low definition.
- Shared Screen (Presenter): Share screen is also a great tool to reduce communication distance. Just be aware that there may be a delay between the origin and the destination. Screen resolution may be an issue too, especially if you are sharing your screen with a crowd in a remote room where those further away of the screen won’t see details as well as you can.
Recommendation: If details are important, pay attention to Zoom when needed. In any case, check to make sure that your audience is seeing what you are seeing in terms of both time and size.
- Speakers & Microphones (Presenter & Recipient) In working with lots of clients, it’s sometimes surprising to find how much variation there is between client’s microphones and speakers. These variations in quality can sometimes obstruct smooth communication, especially when working with team members in different countries.
Recommendation: Good devices are not expensive, so there is no excuse to suffer. Microphones integrated to laptops or integrated to the camera are not the best ones. Better options are USB directional microphones, oriented on the same direction as Speakers to avoid echo.
- Noise (Everyone) This goes without saying but it is critical to avoid background noise when communicating, especially using video and audio conference calls.
Recommendation: Using headsets instead of speakers helps a lot, especially to avoid echos. Additionally, having the microphone close to your mouth captures your voice versus other noises in the room. I also use jack split when sharing my computer on a call. It’s amazing what a difference, it makes. Also, MUTE your microphone when not speaking.
- Meeting Summary (Recipient) Take notes and share main points after the meeting. It is a good habit to review briefly agreements after each meeting. Usually, it is more beneficial if the recipient is the one who does this so that Transmitter can validate understanding.
Recommendation: Take notes and validate expectations after each meeting.
- Duration (Organizer) After an hour (in the best case) on a multi participant call is challenging. Being aware of that ensures that you plan for keeping people engaged. It’s extremely difficult to maintain mental focus on calls more than one hour.
Recommendation: As organizer, you want to keep calls as short and as to the point as possible. Break up the monotony by asking questions, asking the team to paraphrase. In general, avoid large group meetings by phone.