Virtual is Virtuous

Virtual is Virtuous

Four months ago if you had said to me that I would be writing about the virtues of virtual I would have laughed you out of the apartment. But after several Webinar Wars and a quarter year’s learning about online mentoring and coaching I am an enthusiast. So are those of our team whose work is largely training and facilitating discussion groups. They have managed to navigate the wealth of systems now offering touchy-feely-replication to a point where you have to resist reaching out to your screen in the mistaken belief that it is a person.

More importantly, our clients are enthusiastic too – some of them never believed they would adopt Advice across the Airways. They do now. The first bonus is speed. Instead of having to allot a time for (possibly delayed) travel and chit-chat afterwards by which time lunch is due and half the day is shot, virtual is as close to instant as you can get. You can still take your meeting members at their pace, still devote time to Q&A with the same prods to think about it, still keep one person at the end of a meeting to discuss something peculiar to them. All that is possible online. Whether WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams or GkW you can choose your level of engagement. And the journey back to work is one second.

The lessons I referred to in an earlier Daily Paradox on Make Virtual Real, 25Mar20, have largely been learnt but there are two I must repeat because they are doing damage to the New Meeting. First lighting. We mostly sit at home with our backs to the window. That allows daylight to fall on our screens making it easier to read and gentler for the eyes. For meetings the light needs to be on you. It really does. Facial language is vital to good communication. I say this for the benefit of the sender of messages as much as for the receiver. Please, please see that your face is well lit. Invisibility is ineffective except in conjuring tricks.

Second, body language. Sitting with your face to the screen may be your normal posture – actually, it shouldn’t be, even then. The issue becomes critical in a virtual meeting. Sit at least 22 inches back from the screen. As far back as is necessary to allow the receiver of your message to see your Upper Body Language – shoulders, arms, hands and, if a girl, brooches. Yes, they send a message, too. If you’re in doubt about that please have a word with Eliza. She is quite clear.

Well lit and able to use arms and hands to demonstrate, you can become a Master Webber, an accolade we give to those who we are in touch with who fulfil the criteria for making virtual real. Even get a beautiful Certificate saying I made Virtual Real to hang in you home, just in sight of the camera. There’s a third rule I have deduced that needs more emphasis. It is the rule of Brevity.

Blaise Pascal, French mathematician and philosopher, is thought to have been the first person to say “I didn’t have time to write a short letter so I’m afraid you have got a long one.” Since then virtually every writer and most USA Presidents have said it.

We are trying to give all relevant information to achieve an action. Availability of that information is essential. Pronouncement of it is not. Indeed, it can be the death of a good case. Defence Counsel know this in court, as you can see in many a good court case movie. Your best case is made by brevity with just enough information to convince. Challenging to become the Talker of the Year does not enhance internet communication – or any other messages.

Let’s turn virtual into virtuous every time we use the great gift of the internet. It is there to make life better. Coronavirus has shown us the challenges we may have to face in the coming years. We’ll need all the internet communication we can get then.

Oh, and GkW, mentioned earlier in my Daily Paradox?

Relax. Not another channel, just ‘God knows What’.


On 20Jun20 at 1030am Singapore time I shall be having a fireside chat with

Yen-Lu Chow, Co-founder and Director of the Asia Institute of Mentoring and

Lita Nithyanandan (Moderator), Managing Director of the Behavioural Consulting Group

on the subject of

What we want from new leaders – post crisis.

I invite you to join in, engaging to challenge my possibly antediluvian views.

Register here.