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Here you’ll find anything that I think is engaging, a great example of communication or just downright useful. With an occasional smattering of complete nonsense just because it made me laugh and I hope will brighten your day too.

19th January 2021

Communicating online effectively through distractions

Sometimes, especially in situations like those that have come up in these challenging times, there’s too much communication, which leads to a lot of noise. I think sometimes organisations are forgetting that corporate noise has just been increased by noise at home, from loved ones, from social media, etc. There’s a lot of noise whenever there’s a crisis. It’s important to try and cut through it. That involves getting the relevance right, but also sometimes actually saying, “Now is not the time to try and communicate”, and “We’re going to delay by 24 hours. We’re going to delay by a week even,” if it’s not urgent.

It’s also about making it absolutely pertinent. There’s no room for padding. It’s got to be clear, direct, to the point. Our attention spans are short at the best of times and, at the moment, they’re even shorter than normal. You’ve got to get on with it.

Without getting too political, I think someone who has done a good job of communicating their messages recently has been the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, who is very calm, very measured, very ordered in what he says, very easy to understand. Compared to Boris Johnson, whose style has always been very loose, very unstructured, its highlighted. He is putting across very complicated messages, but in really quite simple ways. His language is direct. I think keeping it as simple as possible is key.

Furthermore, decrease distractions by making sure there’s not multiple messages coming out at the same time. Keep things simple and concise. If you have an announcement, especially if it’s bad news, people may stop listening after you’ve made it because they’ve gone into an internal monologue about how this affects them. I would suggest if you are, for instance, telling your staff that you’re furloughing them, tell them that and say, “This afternoon or even this time tomorrow, we’re going to have another call where I will tell you exactly what we’re going to do to support you.” Don’t just try and put all the information into one message because once people have heard something big, important, impactful, that is all their brain will process, and they will stop listening. If you have to, spread it out slightly. There will also be people whose immediate reaction will be to ask what happens next, so make sure you’re able to answer them, but be aware that a number of the audience may not listen to what you’re saying.

One of the things that’s come out of the discussions involving moving meetings online has been a lot of people saying, “Your online meetings should be half the length of any real-world meetings”, because partly, if anything else, when you’re sitting there, looking at your computer screen, it’s much harder to build rapport. It’s much harder to keep engagement. People can get distracted. Let’s face it – we’ve all been on webinars, and Zoom calls, where, all of a sudden, your emails start becoming far more interesting. If you’re leading a zoom call and you start to see people’s eyes drift away from you, or down to their phone, you know it’s time to mix up whatever it is you’re doing.

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