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Webucator's Free Virtual Communications for Managers Tutorial

Lesson: Types of Communication

Welcome to our free Virtual Communications for Managers tutorial. This tutorial is based on Webucator's Virtual Communications for Managers course.

There are many ways to differentiate communication. This lesson will take an analytical look at communication in the workplace and explore best practices based on key factors.

Lesson Goals

  • Learn about synchronous and asynchronous communications.
  • Learn the differences between secure and unsecure communications.
  • Learn to recognize broadcasts and exchanges.
  • Learn how to approach casual and formal communications.

Synchronous and Asynchronous Communications

The most obvious way to distinguish between types of communication is to separate communication into two categories:

  1. In-person, or face-to-face.
  2. Virtual.

Within the category of virtual communications, there are many more distinctions. One of the primary distinctions is between synchronous and asynchronous communications. The words "synchronous" and "asynchronous" come from both Latin and Greek.

  1. A - means negative, or not.
  2. Syn - means equal, or same.
  3. Chronos - means time.

Therefore, "synchronous," means, "same time;" and "asynchronous," means, "not same time."

So, communication in which the two parties can talk at the same time is synchronous.

Synchronous Communication

Examples of synchronous communications include:

  1. Phone conversations.
  2. Chats.
  3. Video conferencing.
  4. Audio conferencing.

All face-to-face communication is synchronous as well, but synchronous, virtual communication is missing one or more of the following components that we addressed in the last lesson:

  1. Words.
  2. Intonation.
  3. Body language.

Asynchronous Communication

Asynchronous communication takes place when the two parties are not communicating at the same time, or at least they are not expected to. This includes:

  1. Email.
  2. Traditional mail.
  3. Texting.
  4. Online forums.

(It needs to be noted that, while the basic concept is the same, we are not referring to the definitions used within the study of data communications. Here, we are referring to human interaction.)

Again, in asynchronous communication, typically one or more components of communication are missing. This is important to note because quality virtual communication finds ways to compensate for the loss of these components. We will address this in a later lesson.

Synchronous and Asynchronous Communications

Duration: 5 to 10 minutes.

Complete the following exercises about synchronous and asynchronous communications.

  1. Match the terms in List 1 to the terms in List 2 according to the best fit.
    1. List 1:
      1. Chronos
      2. Email
      3. Same time
      4. Video conferencing
    2. List 2:
      1. Asynchronous
      2. Time
      3. Virtual
      4. Face-to-face
      5. Synchronous
  2. Label each of the following either synchronous or asynchronous:
    1. Walkie-talkies
    2. Sign language
    3. Sticky notes
    4. A conference
    5. A book
    6. VOIP (Internet phone)


    1. ii.
    2. i.
    3. v.
    4. iii and iv.
    1. Synchronous.
    2. Synchronous.
    3. Asynchronous.
    4. Synchronous.
    5. Asynchronous.
    6. Synchronous.

Broadcasts and Exchanges

All messages are either broadcasts or exchanges. Broadcasts are announcements. They are often coming from one person and sent to many people, but they can also be between two individuals. A broadcast includes:

  1. Emails announcing policy changes.
  2. Loudspeaker announcements.
  3. Weekly newsletters.
  4. Meeting reminders.

Broadcasts are distributions of information that do not expect feedback. Their intent is to inform without discussion.

Exchanges, on the other hand, are two-way communications. Exchanges include all components of the communication loop, as learned in the last lesson. Exchanges may begin with an offer of information, as in a broadcast, but there is an expectation of feedback. Exchanges may also begin with a question, seeking information. Examples of exchanges include:

  1. Discussions.
  2. Queries.
  3. Event invitations.
  4. Brainstorming.

In the previous lesson, we talked about the importance of equal communication with both local and virtual employees. Many managers send broadcasts to their virtual employees, but they neglect to provide opportunities for exchanges with them.

A productive manager will not neglect the important task of providing exchange opportunities for their virtual employees. The complete communication loop provides managers and employees the opportunity to:

  1. Communicate well.
  2. Build relationships.
  3. Express:
    1. Ideas.
    2. Concerns.
    3. Solutions.

Additionally, if information is not broadcast clearly or completely, the receiver of the message may become frustrated and unable to perform their work because they do not have a way to seek clarification.

Even with broadcast information, it may be beneficial to provide an opportunity for feedback or questions. For example:

  1. A phone number may be included in an instruction manual so users may seek clarification.
  2. Within an electronic form, a link may be provided that leads the user to a contact page on the website.

Broadcasts and Exchanges

Duration: 5 to 10 minutes.

Perform the following activities related to broadcasts and exchanges.

  1. Fill in the missing words in the following sentences:
    1. Managers provide information through ___________________ and _____________________.
    2. Brainstorming, problem solving, and creativity require _____________________.
    3. When reasonable, broadcasts should include opportunities for ________________ in case there are questions.
  2. Which of the following is not a form of broadcast communication?
    1. A commercial
    2. A billboard
    3. A question
    4. A public service announcement
    5. A directive
    6. A label


    1. Managers provide information through broadcasts and exchanges.
    2. Brainstorming, problem solving, and creativity require exchanges.
    3. When reasonable, broadcasts should include opportunities for feedback in case there are questions.
  1. C. A question.

Broadcasts and Exchanges - Personal Application

Duration: 5 to 10 minutes.
  1. Have you ever been in a situation in which you were given a good deal of information, but were not offered the opportunity to share what was on your mind? You may have experienced this in a classroom, in a business meeting, or with a talkative relative.
    1. Was the communication a broadcast or an exchange?
    2. Should the communication have been a broadcast or exchange?
    3. How could the opportunity for feedback have been incorporated into the communication?
    4. Why is it important for managers to discern between broadcasts and exchanges?

Casual and Formal Communications

Another way to distinguish communication is between casual and formal communications. Casual communication generally takes place between friends, and formal communication takes place between employees and employers. However, this is not an absolute rule.


The relationship between the two individuals often determines the type of communication used. Formal communications are used:

  1. To show respect.
  2. In professional presentations.
  3. When people are not familiar with each other.

Casual communications, on the other hand, are used:

  1. When the parties have familiarity with one another.
  2. By people who interact with each other regularly.

Formal Communication

The situation also affects the type of communication used. Situations that use formal communications include:

  1. Business presentations.
  2. Sales presentations.
  3. Service and support functions.
  4. Intercultural events.
  5. Interviews and performance reviews.
  6. Events in which protocol is important.

The following are the benefits that are derived from the use of a formal communication style. Formal communications:

  1. Give a professional appearance.
  2. Avoid misunderstandings.
  3. Minimize the possibility of offending the other party.
  4. Are clear and comprehensive.

Casual Communication

Casual communications are used in settings that do not require the same level of protocol. The degree to which a situation is formal or casual determines the degree to which the method and style of communications are formal or casual. The following are examples of casual or semi-casual situations:

  1. Co-workers meeting for hors d'oeuvres after work.
  2. Gatherings of friends and/or family.
  3. Event ice breakers.
  4. Brainstorming events.
  5. Team-building events.
  6. Team meetings.

Casual communications provide benefits as well. While casual communications may not be as precise or clear as formal communications, casual communications:

  1. Relax a tense situation.
  2. Provide the opportunity for humor.
  3. Provide an open, accepting environment.
  4. Use more nonverbal communication.
  5. Tend to take less time than formal communications.


There are many aspects that differentiate between formal and casual communications. In formal communications, great attention is placed on the composition of the presentation.

  1. Words are spelled correctly and clearly expressed.
  2. Sounds are articulate and appropriate.
  3. Images are informative.
  4. Conventional grammatical rules are followed

In casual conversation, the relationship between the parties assumes both parties, to a certain degree, understand each other's intent. In casual communication:

  1. Sentences are shortened and contractions are used.
  2. Words may be substituted with letters, numbers, or symbols.
  3. Accuracy is not emphasized.
  4. Cultural expressions and colloquialisms may be used.

In virtual communications, the formality of the situation impacts the words and media chosen to communicate the message.

Casual and Formal Communications

Duration: 5 to 10 minutes.

Perform the following exercises relating to casual and formal communication.

  1. The type of communication used is often determined by the ______________ between the parties.
  2. Associate the following with either Formal or Casual:
    1. A party with friends.
    2. Applying for a scholarship.
    3. Protocol.
    4. Avoiding misunderstandings.
    5. Sarcasm.


  1. The type of communication used is often determined by the relationship between the parties.
    1. Casual.
    2. Formal.
    3. Formal.
    4. Formal.
    5. Casual.

Casual and Formal Communications - Personal Application

Duration: 10 to 15 minutes.
  1. Describe a situation in which formal communication may negatively impact the outcome of the conversation.
  2. Describe a situation in which casual communication may negatively impact the outcome of the conversation.
  3. How can one incorporate casual attributes into a formal situation in a way that would benefit the situation (for example, introducing humor)?

Secure and Unsecure Communications

A final, and very important, consideration that affects the method of communication is whether the content is secure or unsecure. Secure communication is used when the information is confidential or sensitive. Any content that is, or should be, kept private needs to be handled in a secure manner. This means:

  1. It is rarely broadcast.
  2. The choice of medium must be secure.
  3. The handling of the information prior to and after delivery must be secure.

Often the security of a message is determined by:

  1. Regulatory and legislative constraints, such as:
    1. Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
    2. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA)
    3. Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  2. Company policies, including:
    1. Hiring information.
    2. Trade secrets.
    3. Competitive strategies.
  3. Personal information, such as:
    1. Identification information.
    2. Gossip.
    3. Information that could be incriminating.
    4. Relationship issues.

It should be noted that secure information should not be broadcast unless the broadcast method is verified to be secure. An example is an automated email that includes a password. This broadcast is in response to a request in which identity is verified prior to the broadcast.

In all situations, it is of the utmost importance to consider the confidentiality of the content and what this implies as far as choosing communication methods. Depending on the situation, mishandling secure information could have very damaging consequences. In the business environment, these consequences may range from simple embarrassment to job loss.

Secure and Unsecure Communications

Duration: 5 to 10 minutes.

Complete the following exercise about secure and unsecure communications.

  1. Match each listed situation with all types of communication that apply. (Your answers may vary depending on the situation you have in mind. Discuss these answers with other students or your facilitator.)
    1. Situation:
        1. A memo providing information about a person who is being laid off.
        2. An email invitation to go to a ball game together after work.
        3. A notice about hours of operations.
        4. An update on a project.
    2. Types of Communication:
      1. Face-to-face
      2. Virtual
      3. Synchronous
      4. Asynchronous
      5. Broadcast
      6. Exchange
      7. Casual
      8. Formal
      9. Secure
      10. Unsecure


    1. A memo providing information about a person who is being laid off.
      1. Virtual
      2. Asynchronous
      3. Broadcast
      4. Formal
      5. Secure
    2. An email invitation to go to a ball game together after work.
      1. Virtual
      2. Asynchronous
      3. Exchange
      4. Casual
      5. Unsecure
    3. A notice to customers about hours of operations.
      1. Virtual
      2. Synchronous
      3. Broadcast
      4. Formal
      5. Unsecure
    4. An update on a project.
      1. Virtual
      2. Synchronous
      3. Exchange
      4. Casual
      5. Unsecure