The virtual meeting is here to stay. But that doesn't mean executives won't be required to attend in-person meetings at times and give presentations to those gathered around the conference table. Are your in-person communications skills rusty?
Executives had plenty of virtual "oops" moments early in the pandemic. They seem funny now, but I bet bosses were not amused at the time. Everything from forgetting to cut your camera when taking a restroom break--to trash talking someone when you thought you were off-mic.
Now that we are seeing a return to company headquarters for some employees, there are bound to be some new awkward moments.
- Do you dare ask a co-worker if he or she is fully vaccinated? This may a real conversation at firms that do not require proof.
- Do you hug someone you haven't set eyes on, in-person, in a year? Hugging in the workplace is fraught with problems. This greeting should be reserved for friends and family outside of work.
- Do you shake hands with clients? Or will that extended hand be off-putting to some? I venture that we will not see a return to automatic handshakes soon. A pleasant head nod and smile is a good alternative.
- How about your eye contact? It's great to look people in the eye when speaking, but do it too long and it takes on a creepy feel.
- Looking down at mobile devices while speaking to someone in-person has always been rude. Some say it's just multitasking, but I believe it shows a lack of respect for the person you are conversing with.
- Some people just cannot communicate without gesturing. So let those hands fly when you get back at the office. I've found that gesturing isn't as effective during virtual chats. Depending on your camera set-up, your movements can look distorted.
- Perhaps the trickiest conversations in the office will have little to do with work itself. Much has changed in the outside world since the pandemic began. Conversations on the BLM movement, the Presidential election, the attack on the Capitol, and other sensitive topics will find their way in to the workplace. That isn't a bad thing, but employers need to set some guidelines. There's a line between conveying differing opinions and bullying.
Internal coporate communications can be challenging in the best of times. Following a year of isolation and turmoil CEOs, HR managers and in-house communications managers need a game plan as employees return to work. Bringing in an outside corporate communications expert is another option to consider.
We're all a bit rusty and our world has changed.
Author Suzanne Spurgeon is a former CNN VP and the Founder of Women Media Pros.