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Last month I wrote about online communication and the skills we need to be able to hold an audience’s attention. Here it is again – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/respect-connect-key-excellent-online-communication-jayne-constantinis/

Four weeks on, dozens of Zoom/Skype/Teams calls later, why does it seem that this form of communication is getting harder and more tiring? Surely we should be getting better at it.

I think it’s down to two issues:

  1. Problem one – sound quality

According to Trevor Cox, an acoustics expert at the University of Salford, the quality of sound coming through our computers is inferior to broadcast audio. It’s been compressed which gives it a sort of tinny quality. It’s therefore less pleasing to the ear and harder to tolerate for long periods. It’s like we’re being repeatedly slapped around the head by the speaker’s voice.

When I was preparing to give a 60 minute webinar recently, I compared the sound quality through my laptop with that from the professional microphone I use for voice over work. There was a significant difference. I have no doubt that my audience was relieved not to be aurally buffeted for an hour.

And then there’s the issue of poor connections where we’re straining to catch what’s being said; we’re worried we missed a key word, and we spend the rest of the call wondering if we should ask for clarification. Our brains are working on multiple levels and that causes fatigue.

  1. Problem two – visual scrutiny

Unlike actual meetings or presentations, everyone in the virtual world is ‘in vision’ all of the time (unless videos are off). So we all have to maintain our active listening game face throughout. This is exhausting, especially for those who happen to have a flat/hostile listening demeanour. Even actors on a stage come in and out of the spotlight as the audience’s attention is focused on different characters. They get moments to rest and recharge. We don’t.

Add to that the ghastly business of having to look at yourself all day, grey roots and all (thankfully we can switch self view off on most platforms), it’s no wonder we’re on our knees at the end of the week.

But, just because the technology exists to do video calls, it doesn’t mean we have to. I had a good old fashioned telephone call the other day and it was most refreshing. In fact, I noticed how easy it was to focus on the conversation and how it was less physically demanding. I wasn’t using a whole lot of energy arranging my face.

So, as we enter this next phase of remote working, and as we begin to better understand the limitations of video calling, let’s not be afraid to simply pick up the ‘phone, leave the curlers in and scowl to our heart’s delight.

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