Changing your communication channels - five tips for taking face-to-face communication online

Changing your communication channels - five tips for taking face-to-face communication online
21 May 2020

In the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, most of us are switching to remote working. We have found ourselves working from our spare rooms, kitchen tables and makeshift home offices. And, all the while, we are challenged to still deliver on existing business plans, project outcomes and strategies. This means we still need to be engaging with stakeholders, the community and clients – but we now need to do this digitally, and to be building resilience into our working approaches and our capacity to continue to operate in the future.

One thing that has become apparent in the accelerated transition to online working as a result of the pandemic, is that what works in a face-to-face setting doesn’t always directly translate in online delivery. This presents a challenge in still trying to deliver and evaluate existing engagement and communication sessions, and objectives.

While delivering programmes in an online setting may be new to you, there are many people who have been operating in this way for quite some time and have learnt things along the way. Our consultants have experience in digital delivery having led consultation sessions, stakeholder meetings, training programmes, webinars and education sessions for a range of clients, stakeholders and community members. Here are our top five tips for delivering content remotely:

Tip 1 – understand exactly what you are trying to achieve

This step is critical in all communications and engagement. Understanding your priority outcomes will help you develop and decide the format of any sessions you are considering. Are you trying to effect recycling behaviour change? Are you trying to broadcast waste service changes to a wide group of people? Who is your key audience? Clearly understanding what you are trying to achieve is going to inform nearly every aspect of engagement. In addition, taking time at the start to understand exactly what you want out of the session will often save you time in the long run.

Tip 2 – get some support

Whether it is an expert to review your content or a co-host to help you on delivery day, having support will enable you to get the most out of your sessions. We have found that having an expert to review content and help think strategically about how to structure material in a virtual setting along with best practice guidance can ensure objectives are met. Having their input and knowledge can increase participant engagement and provide a benchmark to work from.

Having delivery support on the day is also critical in driving professional and efficient sessions. You don’t want your session to be ruined by a connection failure or be distracted with troubleshooting during the session. Having a co-host to provide support means they can take over and run the session if there are any issues on delivery day.  

Tip 3 – test, evaluate and update

Once you’ve developed your session test it. Have a full run through to see what needs to be worked on and what misses translating from theory to practice. Testing the session allows you as a presenter and/or host, to get comfortable with delivery and correct any video quality, lighting or sound issues that may impact the experience for participants. Test any interactive tools you’ve built into your session to make sure polls, surveys, whiteboards and chats work as you intended. We recommend using this time to get feedback from a colleague or test group to smooth out and rectify issues. Testing is a great opportunity to take on the feedback in a safe way and polish your presentation ready for delivery day.

Tip 4 – keep it short and time it well

Ricardo’s Director of Digital Services and Marketing, Trevor Glue, recommends keeping sessions short and to deliver them at a time that is suitable for your audience.  Delivering long sessions online isn’t practical and Trevor recommends breaking it up into segments if you can:

A full-day training course is often better split into shorter online modules. You want to keep people’s attention. Keep videos to between 1 and 3 minutes and make your online sessions as engaging as possible.

Depending on the detail in the session and the outcomes you are trying to achieve, we recommend that sessions be as short and interactive as possible. Trevor also recommends hosting webinars at the right time of day for your audience. For corporate engagement sessions it has been noted that participation in sessions is highest on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and is often most attended when held in the morning. But this might not be the case for community-focused sessions where people have other commitments.

Tip 5 – engagement

Use the small amount of time you have in an online setting for active engagement. Rather than just talking at participants, think about building engagement techniques into your sessions such as frequent check-ins, breakout groups, conversation, polls, videos, and question and answer segments. Making sessions memorable, and understanding that people learn and retain information in different ways will increase the effectiveness and retention of information in your session. When moving from traditional face-to-face sessions, consider the benefits of providing supporting material prior to the session to help make it as interactive as you can.  

If you are interested in learning more about transitioning to digital delivery or if you have any questions or queries, please don’t hesitate to contact tara.vaughan@ricardo.com