It is important that we remain respectful in the way that we communicate because these tools are the only way to connect...
As we enter into fall, COVID-19 is still playing a central role in how we manage our businesses, maintain relationships with existing clients, and attract new clients remotely.
This is new territory for many business owners, managers, and directors who are faced with communicating remotely and being effective in those communications. Being an effective communicator takes special skills such as listening to clients as well as speaking to them, understanding a client’s point of view even if different from your own, and offering subtle ways to enhance their revenue in a positive manner.
All of these skills are still required during COVID-19, especially in light of the fact that we are not meeting with clients and potential clients in person.
It is all done remotely and virtually and things can go south quickly. Usually, when meeting with clients or potential clients, one is able to “read the room” to gage nonverbal cues. Signs of annoyance or anxiety and knowing when a meeting needs to end based on sudden packing up of material and briefcases, compiling papers, etc., are now being handled in a remote environment. Everyone is ramping up their marketing and business development skills virtually and things can get rather messy. It is important that we remain respectful in the way that we communicate because these tools are the only way to connect and maintain some essence of business etiquette.
We have zoom video calls, google chat meetings and other online portals that show a person’s nonverbal behavior. Some clients might demand that they are not on video, which makes trying to understand what they are thinking even more difficult. Sometimes clients, business colleagues or potential clients will insist on non-video because they are multitasking and do not want to seem uninvolved in the scheduled meeting.
Videos are important in that your client (recipient) can see that you are invested in their issue and want to work at solving their problems, as opposed to phone, which is not as interactive.
Do: Look into the camera when you are speaking, not at the screen or elsewhere. It seems unnatural, but on the other side, it is perceived as engaged and interested in the topic.
Do: Make sure that anyone else in the room or house or area where you are hosting or attending a Zoom meeting knows that you are on the video so unfortunate or inappropriate scenes do not occur in the background of your professional meeting.
Don’t: Multitask during a video call. Even though you think that you cannot be seen checking your phone, it shows. Always. Men tend to glance at their watch consistently through a Zoom call because they probably have another one waiting to launch, but show your client or colleague your willingness to be present until the call is completed.
Don’t: It seems natural for women to check their appearance in their computer or laptop camera to adjust their hair or makeup. Don't do this; it is received as not paying attention to the pertinent issues on the video. It happens so frequently when I am on my Zoom calls that women are not aware that they are playing with or adjusting their hair to look good on camera.
While email has been a staple in how we communicate, now there is even more pressure to type what you mean and mean what your type.
Everyone who receives an email is automatically saying the email in their head with your voice attached to it. Yes, I know it sounds odd, but trust me, it happens constantly. In this time of COVID, it is even more important to type respectfully and with soft tones because there is no way to correct how an email is perceived, especially if the email contains negative information or bad news of some kind.
...even more pressure to type what you mean and mean what your type.
Email is also permanent and not as easily retractable as speaking. If you find that you offend someone in a conversation, it can be obvious and there should be enough time to revise your comments to be more respectful or encouraging. In email, you have no second chances, so how you communicate your messages are key.
Do: Imagine that you are on the receiving end of the email and say the email out loud to yourself to make sure that it has the direct intention that you want. If you need someone to respond or do something as a result of the email, ask nicely. It helps.
Don’t: Let your emotions get the best of you when typing an email that will offer discouraging news or asking someone to do something that you know they will not want to do. Be sweet and accommodating and it will show in the responses you get in an email.
Don’t: Use commanding terms and offensive language, as people tend to be put off by that, even more so during this pandemic. Gentle and appropriate language can still be direct and you will find that you get faster and detailed emails in response to yours.
While there has always been a series of do’s and don’t’s when texting in a business arena, now it is even more crucial to pay attention to those rules. People are ramping up their texting as a way to communicate even more than email.
...a modified way to communicate effectively.
Texting used to be a portal for people to communicate with friends and family, but as with Facebook and Instagram, now there is business texting.
Even though you can send a message regarding business issues, it is a modified way to communicate effectively. You are limited in how much you should say and are also limited in terms of requesting information or offering advice.
Do: Maintain respect in your texting endeavors as people other than your intended recipient might have access to this text; they can be forwarded more easily than forwarding the information in an email.
Do: Be careful. Texting is a fast and easy way to communicate in a professional setting on your phone when your computer or laptop is not handy but should be handled with care during these COVID times.
Don’t: Use colloquial and fun language that includes swearing or comments about others because while it might seem funny or sardonic to you, those types of communication can easily be read as offensive.
After 20 years in-house as a Chief Marketing Officer for various AmLaw 200 law firms, Cynthia Kaiser founded Kaiser Advisors LLC to share her passion by helping others to communicate more effectively. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Communication Studies with an emphasis on understanding communication behavior. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.