Transforming Talk at Work | October 2014


Dear reader,

Are you a fan of the 1980’s movie Back to the Future? You know, the one where Marty McFly is flung back in time and has to make sure his to-be parent’s get together so he can successfully return to his present? Well, believe it or not, this classic film is an excellent metaphor for improving the quality of virtual communication in today’s workplace. Truly!

As we all know, building and sustaining strong relationships is essential in any professional environment. When there is a healthy rapport in place, we know what to expect – we have context. Unfortunately, in many virtual environments, it is more common to feel perplexed and frustrated than it is to feel valued or understood. So, what gives? How do we take the mystery out of effective virtual communication?

The answer is simple: we need to travel back in time – in a plutonium-powered DeLorean, perhaps – and understand how communication works when technology is not involved. Once we have a firm grasp of the basics needed to build a strong relationship (mutual respect, concern for others, and active curiosity to name a few) we can then start to think about how to adapt our communication behavior to newer technologies.

Take conference calls, for example. Research has shown that the average conference call length could be cut by 30 percent if the participants did two things – paid attention and listened! A trip back to the basics of strong communication will help us all move into the future with our relationships intact and our businesses thriving.

The next time you’re on a conference call, travel back-to-the-basics and reverse engineer healthy and productive virtual communication.


Reverse Engineer: Conference Call Productivity

1. Know who’s on the call. Take a moment and allow each person to introduce themselves at the top of the call.
2. Say your name each time you speak. Self-identification creates community.
3. Take notes. If you said you will take action on an item after the call, write the details down.
4. Behave as if the meeting were in person. In other words, pay attention.
5. Refrain from “electronic grazing”. Yep, that means no email, games or social media. What will you do instead? Listen to what’s being said!


Digest This: Workplace Bullying in the News

How to Run the Best Virtual Meeting Ever (Forbes)
By using ideas like pre-meeting homework, interactive templates and informal follow up meetings (with food and drink!) Ken Perlman at Kotter International turned his teams’ virtual conference into a connected, productive and energizing mobile atmosphere.

What People Are Really Doing When They’re on a Conference Call (Harvard Business Review)
This illuminating article is packed with stats that reveal what really goes on behind-the-phones of conference call attendees. Keep reading to get some practical tips for both organizers and participants on how to increase engagement and strengthen relationships in a virtual environment.

What’s Wrong with the Modern Conference Call (and the Man Who’s Trying to Fix It) (Entrepreneur)
Learn about an exciting new way to catalogue and retrieve information from your last virtual meeting. With real-time transcribing, keyword alerts and the ability to participate on calls via text message, you’ll never look at conference calls the same way again!

ConfCallRealLife Play

My Treat:

A Conference Call in Real Life

Have a good laugh as you watch this spoof on conference calls. Which of these behaviors are you guilty of?



Until next time,

Janel Anderson, PhD
Workplace Communication Expert and CEO of Working Conversations

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