Mind the Gap! - bridging the virtual communications gap

Mind the Gap!  - bridging the virtual communications gap

Jennifer Jenkins, Worldspan Board Director, shares her thoughts.


Recently, I visited a virtual tradeshow. My first mouse click launched me onto the platform. My second, took me to the networking area. My third to the keynote address. And there I virtually sat as nothing happened and nobody came. In the comfort of my own home, very real – not virtual - panic set in.

In my personal lockdown library is a print off of this article by McKinsey & Company A leader’s guide: Communicating with teams, stakeholders, and communities during COVID-19 and this statement stands out.

“At a crisis’s onset, audience attention is finite; new, disruptive inputs overwhelm a person’s ability to process information. High levels of uncertainty, perceived threats, and fear can even lead to “cognitive freezing”. Put simply: the more complicated, abstract, or extraneous information is right now, the more difficult it will be for people to process it.”

We have become expert at communicating from home. We’ve adopted new and emerging technologies to bridge the physical gap between office and home, leadership and teams, managers and those who do the real work. We have become proficient at Zoom and MS Teams. We communicate daily, weekly, monthly and, in the midst of this pandemic, virtual communications have become routine.

But we now know that attendees – read employees - are likely to be much less able to receive, process and re-call information at this time. Their attention is divided and they are focused on multiple-tasks. They are one-step – or mouse click – away from being completely overwhelmed.

And businesses - good and increasingly resilient businesses - have spotted a gap in their communications. A virtual gap with their most important audience, their employees. As Zoom and MS Teams fatigue has set in, so that audience has switched off. And whilst larger corporate communications have moved online, the more important and critical human communications have not.

Business life is different and will be for some time. But business communities are resilient and will survive. To survive, these communities must still meet, greet, communicate and celebrate the moments that make them unique. New employees arrive and need to be welcomed. Old employees leave and need to be thanked. Birthdays, anniversaries, marriages and births need to be celebrated. And we need to mark the passing of this remarkable time in the usual way. Christmas and New Year – in this of all years – will require a different narrative but need to be celebrated nonetheless.

The truth is that these moments, these human business moments, need to be distinctly celebrated and that can not and should not happen on Zoom ! Businesses need to take the empathy and practicality of what they ordinarily deliver face-to-face online in an authentic way.

So, let’s continue to innovate in the virtual event space but remember that we are translating a live experience into a virtual environment out of necessity and not always out of choice. And that the virtual environment is a tool – a platform – to enable the best bits of what a live experience might still be.

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