How to… improve your digital skills

Digital Skills

In this article: The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift to digital approaches to business, Calibre Group’s Sabina Hegarty explains how you can improve your skills and get the most out of this new age

For many of us Zoom and Teams have become a daily reality. But apart from internal team meetings, what else should we be doing to improve our digital skills – not just for video conferencing?

The good thing is that since digital has been new to so many people over the last few months, all the skills needed can be learned and, more importantly, improved. And we’re all in it together, because unless you’re under the age of around ten and born with a digital brain, it’s just a question of learning the ropes.

The next Spielberg

Video as a communication tool is already something relied on by sales and service teams throughout the motor sector, as it increases transparency and trust with customers. And it’s inevitable that video use will increase, so now is a good time to get up to speed on the best use.

It isn’t enough to learn how to use equipment, you have to learn how to become confident on camera, how to engage with your audience and how to make sure you reflect the brand values of your business even though you’re not in the same room as the people you’re talking to.

A survey of dealer employees recently, overwhelming reveals that they would grab the chance to undertake digital training if it was on offer. So perhaps this is an opportunity to look at what courses are available.

Reply and engage

Remember, when customers communicate digitally – email, online forms and surveys for example – they tend to want answers a lot more quickly. So, speed of communication will increase as we move forward in this digital age.

Presentations being given via screen sharing are becoming all the more common, and since these are being delivered remotely without the benefit of eye contact, they need to be engaging and exciting. Nobody will remain interested if the PowerPoint is dull.

Good presentations should be punchy and dynamic. You should try to use a blend of audio and visual content to create interest. To increase engagement and to keep everyone awake, use questions if appropriate and ensure the audience remains with you throughout the presentation. If there is a lot of detail to impart during a video meeting, consider emailing some of the information in advance or afterwards in order to keep focus on the meeting short and effective.

Keep it convivial

It’s worth remembering that when we normally attend a physical meeting, we spend a bit of time shooting the breeze, asking how everyone is and generally breaking the ice before we sit down to the business of the day. In the digital era where face-to-face contact is via a screen, building rapport and maintaining eye contact with people can be a lot harder for some people, and the time spent breaking the ice or small talk is a lot shorter. Meetings start almost immediately everyone is on the screen and have turned on their camera and microphone. Take the initiative to take a couple of minutes to check on everyone before you kick off the proceedings if it’s appropriate to do so. It won’t do any harm and will certainly set a warmer tone to the session.

Practice makes perfect

People often say to me that they don’t like hearing their own voice on video or that it doesn’t sound like them. They also tell me they struggle to speak without lots of ‘erms’ and stuttering. It’s good to know that this is very common and none of us sound the same out loud, as we think we do and we all say ‘erms’ and ‘aahs’ every day. A good way to learn to gain confidence when speaking through digital mediums is to practice. Use your phone to record small snippets of your voice reading a piece of text and play it back. What would you change? How does it sound?

Now do the same exercise again and this time freestyle it by talking about something or describing an idea. Listen to where the stumble happens, if it does, and then think how you could correct it.

Do exactly the same with video practice on your phone. You’ll be surprised how much improvement you can make just by observing yourself on playback.

In general, words such as ‘erm’ are used as ‘thinking’ words or ‘linking’ words while the speaker is deciding what to say next. A really good way of stopping the ‘erms’ is to replace it with a minuscule pause, before continuing the sentence. It won’t break up the sentence but will immediately reduce the amount of spare words that are thrown in. This will really improve your digital delivery.

The most important thing to consider is many people are regularly using digital skills for work for the first time. Customers, bosses, colleagues, won’t mind if we’re a bit clunky at the moment, but they’ll expect everyone to make an effort to embrace the change and work towards improving.

Calibre Group design and deliver Digital Training for Sales, Service and Finance modules to the automotive sector, with EQ and mental well-being an integral part of all its programmes.

For the latest information, advice and support please visit the IMI’s dedicated COVID-19 pages.