When communicating virtually, it is often more difficult to "read" the other person than when communicating face-to-face. This is because:
The lack of nonverbal feedback and the change in timing can cause messages to be misinterpreted. Additionally, the person's comfort level with the communication media may affect their attitude toward the topic of the conversation.
These issues can be minimized if we understand the other person's communication style and relationship with communication media. It can be useful to consider the following questions before communicating with others virtually:
We can usually determine the types of media a person will be most receptive to by observing how he or she chooses to communicate with others in both virtual and face-to-face interactions. Does he or she:
Virtual communication will be most effective when you use media that emphasizes forms of communication that match the receiver's natural communication style.
It is reasonable to expect an employee to know how to use certain mediated communication systems, particularly if those systems are commonly used within the company. However, new employees and people outside the company may not have those skills.
Assuming technical skills exist may create a barrier to communication. Technologies that are new to a person may:
Erroneous assumptions can be seen in the following common business examples:
If the immediate desire is to accurately communicate a message and have that message well received and understood, technical competencies should be confirmed, not assumed, prior to communication.
Two common errors that take place when new technologies are emerging are:
One should always keep these things in mind:
Just as one should verify the other person's media capabilities, one should also consider the technology that is available to that person.
The number of participants in a conversation is yet another consideration. Most forms of media work equally well when used for conversations:
However, some forms of media do not work as well with large groups, particularly if the conversation is interactive. For example:
Some technologies require modifications to be suitable for larger parties. For example, telephony, designed to be a two-party medium, requires additional layers of hardware or software to manage more than two connection points or participants. These additions include:
While these additional layers of technology may be well established, one cannot assume they are readily available to all participants, so it is important to verify that they are available to all participants prior to attempting communication.