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Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California

Communicating—In a Virtual Environment

In a global economy, people who are located in different cities and countries often work together on common projects. Some of the team players work for the organization while others are contractors. All should be seen as partners in the process. Here are some ideas as to how to work effectively together:

  1. Voice mail. Set up a system to allow people to call in their results to a central number. This data can be updated regularly and fed back to all interested parties.

  2. Teleconferencing. The cost of meeting with people out of town is high, so teleconferencing has become the cheaper alternative. It is possible to set up a number and have all members of the meeting call in at a specified time.

  3. Internet meetings. While the technology is far from perfect, it is possible to hold a meeting on the Internet. NetMeetings (Microsoft), for example, allows people to communicate on a split screen so that typed messages go back and forth. It is also possible to draw on a board and have the other person see it as it is being done. Finally, it is possible to see each other with the use of a relatively inexpensive camera perched on your desk.

  4. Self-directed learning. People needing to learn similar skills can do so on an as-needed basis by accessing increasingly popular tele-classes. While this form of learning is not always ideal, it can provide a low-cost alternative to classroom training for certain skills.

  5. E-mail. This is quickly taking the place of conventional mail as the best and cheapest form of communication. E-mail saves paper and stamps, is typically easy to do, and can be sent with attachments, including voice messages.

  6. Pagers and cellular phones. New satellite technologies are enabling people to stay in touch anywhere in the world — at a cost. Within a country, it is easy and inexpensive to update people on a daily basis.

  7. Chat-lines on the Internet or an intranet. Organizations can encourage communications by setting up bulletin boards where people can post questions and get answers. Useful information for others on the team can be posted there too.

  8. Project management. People sharing the same software can track their progress simultaneously to ensure that they are on time and within budget.

  9. Sharing a common vision and goal. If everyone is aware of and buying into a common vision, they will all be marching in the same direction. If they have established the goal of the project together, they will be committed to achieving it.


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