Interview with Richard Newman: Mastering Virtual Communications






Luca:

Good afternoon Richard, thank you very much for joining me in this interview considering the limited time you have. Can you please introduce yourself?


Richard:

I am Richard Newman, the CEO and Founder of UK Body Talk Ltd. I've been running this brilliant team of people now for the last 21 years. We have coached around 100,000 people all over the world; when there was no pandemic we spent 70% of our time working internationally—working across Europe, the Middle East, Asia, America, and Australia. And since the pandemic, we have had to move all of our work to be delivered through live virtual events and through an online platform. Still, we are working with people across all major industries; we work with business schools, legal firms, finance, pharmaceutical, but generally, what we do is we take people who are relatively senior or have a high level of responsibilities. We give them advanced communication skills to deliver fantastic presentations, team meetings, and one-to-one conversations and be the best ambassador for their company.


Luca:

Impressive. Thanks! We can move to the first question: do you think that in the future, virtualization will stay, will return as soon as possible to face to face activities 100% in the business? If yes, how much from now? and if it is possible, why?


Richard:

We have surveyed the Heads of Learning and Development from our clients around the world. The response that I have had back is along these lines: if something can be done virtually in future, it will be done virtually for the majority of the time, not always, but as much as possible. In my line of work, we used to fly to go into a meeting, where we might do 3 hours of work on the other side of the world and fly back home. If that is possible to achieve virtually in future, we will be doing it virtually.


The experience that they're getting by doing virtual meetings, is not as valuable as being face to face, but the cost is so much lower than the return on investment with virtual communication is greater. I think then that certainly a lot of work is going to stay virtual. From the surveys that I have seen, I have not heard anybody say we are going back 100% the way things work. At least 50% may remain virtual.


Luca:

Richard what about the part related to Face-to-Face?


Richard:

There are other elements related to face-to-face that must be considered. Human beings like being with other human beings. And I think that the key events that happen each quarter and each year, like the annual conference, or the quarterly sales meeting, those things will still happen face to face, if they can. Still, there may potentially be a hybrid model where people will be given the option you can come to this event: the senior people need to be there, but other people who perhaps more junior can stream it live if need be, as a personal choice.

As for the return to office, some people are looking more at September, but about half of people think that face to face is not returning in their business until 2022.


Luca:

Thank you for these insights. Yes, now, the second question. Consider your line of business, And the people you meet during training and mentoring, the lack of skills in the managing communication, do people not fully realize in my opinion, themselves. Can you tell me how and when they start fully realizing?


Richard:

There is a vast gap in skills with virtual communication and managing communication virtually. And I think it is taking people a while to understand that because initially when the lockdown first hit, and things were not working for people, business was slow. People could blame it on the lockdown, they can blame it on the pandemic, the reason they were not hitting their targets was because of the lockdown. Now people realize virtual work is going to stay for a long time. And the economy is starting to recover in some places and some industries, but they're still not hitting their targets. Now people are starting to think there must be something else we are not doing right.


If we look at virtual communication skills, I am surprised by how few people have moved in those skills in the space of a year given that for some people, maybe in some cases, people have spent seven hours a day, eight hours a day or half day, in front of their screens with webcams. And we have moved from a position, from people who were afraid to put a camera on, and now everybody understands it is a question of etiquette that you need to turn a camera on, that is 90% of people say.


Luca:

Well, it can be said that we are at the beginning of what it has been said about effective Virtual communications.


Richard

There's very little shift around. “How do I even do that?”how do I make sure I have got lighting, a good camera, a decent microphone, to make sure that we have the best impact here? How do we do that side of things, but also that the other big shift is understanding? How do I connect with someone who is not in the room?

When you breathe the same air, you can build a physical rapport, you can build that sense of just being on the same wavelength as somebody, there is the banter that happens, there is a personal side of the communication, and sometimes you can say, “Let us just go and grab a coffee”. And you can talk about things that are not business. I think people now are starting to really understand what is missing, and we are not doing enough in that area.

Now people are coming to us more and more saying to us, “okay, we need to make sure we've got the same presence on camera that we used to have, when we had a nice suit, a glossy building a big PowerPoint screen, a boardroom table, we need to have the same impact here to pitch to people. But we also need to have the same impact one to one with our teams to build a connection with them and a journey with them “


Luca:

In addition to technical basic skills which are very important, and I absolutely agree with you, what are the other pillars that are missed?


Richard:

Trust. That is the biggest value that are coming up for us this year, people more than ever saying they value honesty, transparency, authenticity, these are coming up repeatedly. Because people right now lack trust, a lack of transparency is gone.


Luca:

Why?


Richard:

What people need and are coming to us is based on their asking about: “how do I understand someone that's not in the room? How do I really understand what they are saying to me? Because I cannot read their whole-body language, I can just read what's in the frame here”. Basically, getting to a deeper relationship with someone where you are not in the same physical space is the big shift, and some people are starting to realize that they need those skills.


Luca:

Do you think that the management consultants need to have a different approach in communication in general, compared to salespeople, to managers, executives or not?


Richard:

Well, the people that we have worked with, who are consultants, the challenge that they have, in some ways is that it depends on the company because some consultancies, they go in, they investigate, they ask questions, and then they say, here is our suggestion.

Sometimes, if consultants are coming in, people can think about the following questions: “are you trying to downsize the company? Are you interviewing me because you want to get rid of my role?”, Thus, the key thing that a consultant must have is that sense of building up trust and respect.

With other organizations, consultancies need to go in and work within that organization to make the change happen for them. They have to build up lots of close, trusting relationships, and take them on a journey towards something where they have a good influence, they're great with their stakeholders, towards a sense of completion, and then they leave,

I think that, for the consultants in general, the key elements they must have is the ability to gain a deep understanding of other human beings, why and what they are doing, get deep understanding of businesses, but mostly being able to build deep relationships as quickly as possible to be able to get their roles to work. In order to do this they need exceptional virtual communication skills. Especially around questioning, listening skills, reading people and creating a deeper relationship.


Luca:

Thank you for your time Richard: other food-for-thoughts


Richard:

Thank you for the interview, Luca.


To contact Richard visit the website.

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