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Professional communication

How to communicate professionally online

The world has been partially based online for some time, but this has now escalated with more online communication in studies, work and social life. 

Communicating professionally online is very different to experiences with social media, social online forums and friends/family video chats or instant messaging. 

It is more important than ever to not blur the lines between social and professional spheres - an all too easy mistake to make.

Online communication in your studies

In your academic studies it is important to communicate professionally across the board of teaching and learning experiences you will participate in across the breadth of your studies regardless of whether that is in person or online. 

For example, lectures, seminars, workshops, group work, peer to peer discussions, online chat functions, broader online forums and supervision meetings all require professionalism in how you communicate and constructively engage.

By communicating professionally and engaging in the teaching and learning experience will create a richer experience for all students involved. 

How to communicate professionally online

1. Be respectful...

...with your language and behaviour when using messaging apps and video tools

2. Be objective

Informal phrases, particularly dismissive ones, can offend without the person there to clarify.

3. Be collaborative

Invite participation and be sure to participate yourself.

Group projects/meetings and professional communication

Remember when it comes to group projects or meetings which are being worked on or held virtually, it is important to communicate clearly and effectively both during and after the meeting/exchange. 

Some good tips include:

  • create an agenda of key points to discuss and action to work through 
  • keep track of time effectively 
  • make sure key points, actions and deadlines are documented in a shared document during the meeting and circulated immediately after the meeting
  • summarise the key points and actions at the end of the meeting for clarity and invite others to comment to ensure they are happy and clear 
  • schedule in the next meeting.  

Why learning how to communicate professionally online at University will help you in the world of work

There is an expectation that professional communication is consistent and upheld in the world of work and there can be consequences if this is not adhered to. Learning this skill in your studies will set you up well to flourish in this area when you enter graduate employment.

Where students and graduates can come across as unprofessional in the workplace can often be in online forums. Behaviour such as tearing down their colleagues’ thoughts, ideas or work presumably because the communication is not face to face can be a mistake some graduates make. This is not how you communicate professionally and is not how you contribute to an organisation, team, project or task and it is certainly not how you become a valued colleague. 

Instead learn and practice in your studies to engage in online communication with objective and interested questions, being respectful with your comments and your behaviour such as muting your mic on video calls when other people are talking and inviting collaboration and insights from others.  A key part of successful online communication is understanding that a number of cues that “soften a message” are missing in online communication such as simple body language. This is especially true in text based communication such as email  So care needs to be taken to imagine how the other person will respond to your communication.  It is surprising how an insensitively worded email can affect people and how they think of you.

Learning this now in your studies will set you up for a smooth transition into the workplace or further study where you can flourish.

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