Barbara Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Connect to Communicate – even virtually
Updated: Apr 3
Ask anyone what they missed most during the COVID-19 quarantine, and you are likely to hear, “getting together with people!” We missed connecting. We are social creatures and we thrive on human connection. Even introverts need it.
We attempted to connect via virtual means – FaceTime with family, social media with friends, Zoom meetings for work, webinars replacing conferences, and streaming services for worship and concerts.
These substitutes have remained a significant way we communicate even when we can meet in person. Virtual is here to stay, but we need to enhance our virtual connections. Virtual will never be superior to face-to-face contact, but to succeed we must make it better.
Adopt best practices for virtual connections
There’s no shortage of memes and humorous videos depicting many of the shortcomings of video conferencing: Technology glitches, distracting environments (think noisy kids and barking dogs), multi-tasking participants, pant-less participants, or those with bed hair wearing pajamas.
If we want virtual meetings to succeed, we need to create and adopt best practices, with or without makeup.
First and foremost: create connections
When scrolling social media you may have noticed the hashtag #ShowYourFace. It’s true. We feel more of a connection to the author of a post when we can see them, than when their post features words, or food, or scenery.
We also know that social media is more successful when it is truly social -- when people comment and enter into a dialogue with the author and with other readers.
When I taught Purdue nutrition students the importance of connecting with your audience, I shared this mantra (Source unknown):
“Teach the student, not the subject. Treat the patient, not the illness.”
I often mentioned that one could create numerous renditions of this idea, such as: “Make a customer, not a sale.” Or, “Meet with a colleague, not a coworker.”
What other versions can you think of? (BTW: The customer quote can be attributed to Katherine Barchetti. If the others have a source, please share!)
Why? Because communication is a relational activity.
Regardless of their source, one of the key ideas found in these statements is that communication is most successful when it is more than a message and more than a channel -- communication succeeds when it connects the communicator and the audience -- when it is relational.
Impersonal communication often fails. Personalized communication has a much greater chance of success. The concept of relational communication is a key idea described in Communicating Nutrition: The Authoritative Guide featured from the very first chapter. The book has an entire section, six chapters, devoted to creating audience-focused communication.
Knowing your audience, communicating with them, meeting their needs, and speaking their language, are central to effective communication.
Today, we are challenged with achieving this goal through virtual channels. Can it be done? Yes. Not as easily, but with the right tools and strategies, connections can be built in person or virtually.
Learn ways to communicate successfully via virtual channels whether for meetings, group or individual sessions, or webinars and video conferencing. Be an early adopter of virtual best practices.
“Communication is a human activity. It begins and ends with people. Everything that comes between merely facilitates – or hinders – the process.” ~ The Communicator’s Handbook, ©2000 Agricultural Communicators in Education
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