Communication Tips for Virtual Collaboration

Communication  in Virtual Collaboration

One of the most important skills to have in virtual collaboration is the ability to communicate clearly. Whether it’s through emails or over the phone, you’ll need to be able to clearly articulate questions and comments, your status on projects, and acknowledgement of new assignments. With this post, I’ll outline some communication tips for virtual collaboration.


Put Urgent Information in Subject Line

In a virtual environment, chances are that most of the communication with your boss  will be conducted via email. It’s important for you to be able to write an email that managers or co-workers can understand, and to send detailed replies that are easily readable.

Sending Emails

  • Read over your email before you send it.
  • Check for spelling errors and sentence clarity.
  • If your email is urgent, it’s helpful to make that known in the subject line (e.g. “Please read this before this evening” or “Deadline has changed!”).
  • If you’ve been given a new project, it’s helpful to ask about the deadline and whether there’s any specific information concerning the assignment.

Replying to Emails

When you’re writing your reply:

  • Read over the email twice – once when you receive it, and once as you are writing your answer.
  • If it’s a lengthy email, it’s helpful to read over it in sections, and write your reply to each one as you go.
  • Respond to every question you’ve been asked, and,
  • Acknowledge that you understand any instructions given to you. Don’t assume that the recipient knows you understand.

Also make sure to use separate paragraphs for each topic you’re covering. You may even need to use numbers or bullet points to denote separate points, both in your original emails and your replies. The more organized the email is, the easier and quicker it is for someone to read and understand.

Phone Conversations is an easy way to list tasks and get reminders

Your time and your manager’s time are both very valuable, so make the most of phone conversations. If there are certain topics you want to cover during the call, such as a project on which you need assistance, write them down. Also write down any questions or new ideas.

If you haven’t already, create a free account on, where you and your boss can schedule tasks for each other. I’ve found that this is a great way for you to keep track of tasks your boss needs you to finish, and for your boss to have a convenient list of items he/she needs to follow up on.

During the call itself, keep a pen and paper handy to take notes or write down new instructions. Managers can sometimes have a lot on their minds (especially if they are managing a variety of different initiatives at once), so it’s good to be prepared to take notes throughout the call. The same goes for employees; they may have a number of questions or concerns that you’ll want to follow up on, so taking a few notes will be helpful. This will ensure that the time is well-spent for both parties.

Progress Updates

Victoria Shockley writes, edits and collaborates virtually from Raleigh, NC.

Periodically you will need to write progress updates for your boss; this is especially important for those of us who are working virtually. Without progress updates, our managers have no idea what we’re working on – or even if we’ve been working at all! The report doesn’t have to be formal; sometimes just a few sentences are fine.

When you write your report, make sure to clearly state which project you’re referring to (for example, say “Bob Smith’s article titled ‘New Opportunities’” rather than “the article you sent me last week”). If you can, give your supervisor an estimate of when you expect to be finished with the project.

Communication is crucial to successful collaboration with your manager and co-workers. It’s even more important in a virtual environment because there’s limited face-to-face contact. Being clear and specific in your email and phone interactions can improve your experience and the results of your virtual endeavors.

Victoria Shockley is a sophomore at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, majoring in English (with a concentration in Scientific & Technical Communication). She is currently working as a copy editor for the university newspaper and as the Assistant Editor of Women Writers, Women Books. She is planning a career in writing or editing.

Follow Victoria on Twitter: @Victoria_Writes. Visit Victoria’s Author Page for Women Writers, Women Books. Connect with Victoria on LinkedIn.

Martin Brossman & Associates is a Raleigh based firm providing social media training, workshops, management, talks and advising to micro businesses, small and medium sized businesses, professionals, associations and communities. Contact

So you want to be social?

There is no better time than now: Social Media is exploding as the new paradigm for the 21st century, the new way to communicate, connect and be accepted.

Social Media  is as revolutionary as the iPhone, and ironically, it is the iPhone and other smart phones that are driving this life-altering movement.

Image of Facebook Founder and digital networkTake the explosive Arab Spring that toppled regimes – it was spawned and grown by Social Media. Without Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Skype and other Social Media it may never have happened.

No other time in the history of mankind have so many people on the planet communicated in mass, instantly, with a deeper, richer form of communication combining audio, photography and video in a single message.

Now there is Instagram and Pinterest where people post photos of their life or other people’s lives that inspire them. You can see a collage of a person’s personality and maybe a glimpse of their soul on a single web page in the form of photographs. It’s like walking into a person’s home – you immediately get a closer look of that person by the smells, the choice of their furniture style, the colors of the walls, the knickknacks on the shelves and animals that run about your feet.

And because of this transparent and brutal honesty by most people in their quest to be liked, accepted and one of the gang, savvy business people are finding this is the platinum age of marketing and advertising.

Social Media reveals what’s in the hearts and souls of potential customers.

web and business analyst - author and publisher Anthony S Policastro

Anthony S. Policastro

Go back 50 to 100 years to small town America. Everyone knew everyone and what they liked. So when a local resident went to the local grocery store, the grocer knew exactly what that resident wanted and what they liked. He or she may have put aside certain items knowing that particular customer always shopped on a specific day. Social Media is the revival of the small town, but on a global scale.

Businesses can customize their products and services to what people say they like or love on social media. Every business owner, marketer or product manager is now like that small town grocer – they know what people are saying and can orient their wares to appeal to those people with precision accuracy. This is marketing nirvana.

And the staunch, slow-to-adapt Fortune 500 companies are also noticing and beginning to tap this global market on Social Media.

So you want to be social? Now is the time.

Anthony S. Policastro, @aspolicastro,  is an author and digital publisher, as well as a senior web analyst. As publisher, he published Social Media for Business, by Martin Brossman and Anora McGaha.

Amazon Author Page: Anthony S. Policastro

Novelist blog: Writing is about Putting Yourself into Words

LinkedIn: Anthony S. Policastro

Online Marketing blog: The Dog is Chasing Ghosts

Publishing site: Outer Banks Publishing Group

Twitter: @OBXPublishing @aspolicastro

The Social Media for Business Book

The Social Media for Business book, your small business guide to online marketing through social media and other Internet channels.

The Social Media for Business Book will be released any day now. Stay posted.

We will be having a book launch in the Raleigh, North Carolina area, date and location will be announced as soon as the book is available for sale on

Update August 1, 2011:

The Social Media for Business book is available on The launch for the book is planned for August 4th at 6pm at Raleigh’s Center for Excellence near the intersection of 440 and Six Forks South. RSVP at Eventbrite and any of the following social media sites: