Tele-Conversations, Not Virtual Meetings

Recently, I wrote a short series of blog posts for teens that build on what I teach at the George Washington University to older versions of today’s high schoolers:

Communication is the top skill needed to excel in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) studies. Especially the ability to connect clearly to others who are different from you.

It is easy to read this advice from the perspective of career experience and think “well of course communication is important.” Business and teaching and saving the world hinges on communicating in various forms. We all know that.

But in practice, many of us have been reminded of late how important it is to strive for quality and ever-improving communications skills.

Virtual meetings have raised the bar on consciously delivering effective communications.

In 2020 we find ourselves in a former fantasy land, but we take our present for granted because the technology has arrived in waves of magical innovation then default expectation, not suddenly on a movie screen. Conference phones brought people into meetings from different rooms. Digital slides made flashy presentations affordable to more speakers. The internet made text-based mail instantaneous and portable.

Yet as wired and wireless technologies “easily” allowed businesses and classrooms to engage beyond four walls, they invited audiences to disengage even more easily. We go unseen over the phone. Busy slides make speakers unmemorable. Mobile text invites us to “participate” in more than one session at once.

Virtual meetings combine these three possibilities: tele-voice, shared slides, and text-based chat. But video adds a fourth dimension that is new to some, though it was always the vision. With remote work more widespread, the video conference is here to stay.

In this transition to virtual, there is opportunity to make meetings better.

Now more aware of our screens, we are more conscious of how we appear. If we extend this thought to what we show, more speakers must think consciously designing slides to connect, not distract. We need to think of virtual connections not as passive meetings, but as active tele-conversations.

Tele-conversations provide a new opportunity to spread ideas far and wide. The key is to put Audiences First: consciously engage, share slides that captivate, and use stories that can be easily repeated.

Regardless of our individual expertise, we can change the world one conversation at a time. We just have to be conscious of how we are communicating.

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