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Virtual communication – how can you do it effectively?

Leading & managing change 01st December 2020
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In his book Sapiens, Yuval Harari explains that we are differentiated from other species and have largely been successful because of our ability to co-operate effectively, flexibly and at scale.

Yuval tells us that human history shows we communicate to create belief in ‘shared fictions’ through language and storytelling, and it is these ‘shared fictions’ that create a sense of connectedness, common interests and goals that are essential for getting people to work together.

When leading a team, we want to bring people together and for them to work collectively towards a purpose or strategy. ‘Good’ communication achieves this – sharing stories that we all sign up to, believe in and want to be part of.

But how can we achieve this ‘good’ level of communication? And how can we ensure it drives people to action – particularly when we heavily rely on virtual channels?

This article and accompanying guide shares some starting points…

Virtual communication challenge: Attention

Cutting through the virtual noise and knowing if people are present and ‘with you’ when you communicate is harder when they are not in the same room.


Upweight your focus on your audience and ask: Why would they care? If your content doesn’t have:

  1. RELEVANCE i.e. it is applicable to them
  2. RESONANCE i.e. they can relate with it

They are probably only turning up to listen to your communication because they feel they must.

To overcome this, put an expectation of interactivity into every communication you do. For example:

  1. In a virtual team meeting ask someone’s experience or opinion. But be sure not to put them on the spot. Instead ask a question where there’s no ‘right’ answer so they can easily offer their own perspective.
  2. When sharing something on internal social media platforms, make it clear you want to hear back e.g. ‘What do you think about X? Let me know in the comments’ is an easy place to start.
  3. In team meetings or working sessions use small group breakouts to increase engagement and openness. Both Microsoft Teams and Zoom now offer this functionality.

Virtual communication challenge: Asynchronicity

We want to get people together, but they are all on different time zones. And people’s personal lives mean it’s not always possible to be ‘on’ and available at a time decided by someone else.


  1. Post a question or share a video and ask people to discuss it in groups or teams when it suits them. Get them to feedback on your internal social media platform or intranet and encourage them to use a shared hashtag so everyone can see their answers and follow the conversation.
  2. Ask people to tell you what’s on their mind using a channel that’s always available e.g. Microsoft Teams, Slack, Workplace. Then each week respond to as many comments as you can.

Want more ideas like these? Download our guide: The As, Bs and Cs of virtual communication

Free download

The As, Bs and Cs of virtual communication

Download now