Black woman manager leader having team chat virtual meeting group video conference call with diverse business people remote working online at home office. Teleconference concept. Over shoulder view

Effective Communication Tips for Virtual Meetings

As far back as I can remember, any book I read or course I took specific to effective communication referenced the “7-38-55 Rule”.  The concept is derived from research completed by Dr. Albert Mehrabian in 1971, specific to the communication of emotions. In summary, the rule describes the three critical elements for effective communication and the percentage by which each element has an impact on the audience’s understanding:

WORD (7%) – what we actually say or write

MUSIC (38%) – how we say it. The tone, intonation, expression, emotion, pitch and volume

DANCE (55%) – your body language and physical posture/bearing

While there are many that dispute the percentages. There is no denying the power of body language and tone of voice in communicating effectively.

The best communicators tend to focus as much or more on how they share content versus the content itself. It is the way that the words are expressed with emotion and animation and the right body language that makes us remember them.

So, given the primary importance of body language in ensuring the audience understands the speaker’s message, imagine the challenges that occur when the speaker’s body is replaced by a head on a video screen or on a “bad hair day,” just a still picture or blank screen. If you have noticed people having trouble focusing during face-to-face meetings, you will find it even more challenging for them in a virtual meeting.

And the Five Tips Are

The good news is that there are some helpful tips to improve your tone, animate your body language, and set up your audience for a more productive experience. Five recommendations are highlighted below:

No Multi-Tasking Allowed

As much as many of us pride ourselves on being effective “multi-taskers”, our brains are in control of which information to process. Trying to focus on multiple activities at the same time does not allow us to focus specifically and solely on what is being shared during the virtual meeting.

Set Yourself Up for Success

Maximize your computer window to hide distractions, and only keep essential notes and information in front of you. Turn off email and chat pop-ups or any pending update notifications. Keep your phone out of reach or in a timed lockbox. Remember that your ability to grasp the meeting content is going to require you to listen actively and maintain eye contact throughout the meeting. That means that your video feed is on “bad hair day” or not.

Improve Your Tone

The importance of your “MUSIC” increases significantly in a virtual meeting environment, from 38% to upwards of 70%. If you are conveying a positive message, sound positive. If you are trying to motivate a group, sound enthusiastic. Make sure that your emotions and delivery fully complement the intention of the words that you are choosing to use.

Body Language

Given how “DANCE” influences effective communication, it is critical to incorporate non-verbal cues into the virtual meeting engagement. “Your physical presence, posture, gestures, and eye contact all increase your ability to connect with your clients or colleagues and help to build or reinforce trust and communicate more effectively.” In the world of virtual meetings, first impressions are everything. Whether you’re the presenter or a participant, your demeanor speaks volumes. Remember to sit up straight, maintain eye contact, and put on a smile—positive vibes are contagious! Show appreciation for good ideas with a thumbs-up and always dress the part. Crafting a professional and engaging digital presence leaves a lasting impression, shaping how others perceive you in the virtual realm. So, let’s make every interaction count!

Asking Questions

In the realm of leading or participating in virtual communication, it’s essential to keep a finger on the pulse of comprehension. For leaders, periodic check-ins with participants ensure everyone’s on the same page. As a participant, don’t hesitate to ask questions—it signals genuine interest and can spark valuable insights. Preparing your questions beforehand, based on your information goals, can further enrich the discussion, ensuring it’s both fruitful and focused.

As virtual meetings surge in popularity, mastering the art of communication is paramount. In these digital interactions, employing tone, expression, and non-verbal cues such as emotion, pitch, and volume becomes not just important but indispensable. These elements breathe life into the meeting, ensuring clarity and enhancing the impact of the speaker’s message.

While in the virtual world, the “7-38-55” rule may no longer apply. Some combinations of WORDS, MUSIC, and DANCE are necessary for effective communication.


Words, Music, and Dance – getting your message understood

The Guide to Effective Communication During Virtual Meetings

Don Fries

Don leverages his extensive business and leadership experience to partner with senior leaders in a creative and thought-provoking way to discover new possibilities, explore practical options, and accelerate implementation.
During his 38 years with Exxon Mobil Corporation and its heritage companies, Don gained a wide range of personal and professional development experiences, including leading and managing teams across the globe in the areas of manufacturing, supply chain, sales, marketing, learning, and professional development, inclusion and diversity, and culture change. Throughout each experience, Don sought ways to help others grow and unlock excellence within themselves with every opportunity.