Good communication is essential in any virtual team.

Ever felt like you might as well be using a tin can and a piece of string to do your virtual team communication? Your message is sent out as one thing and is received and returned as something completely different?

Well, when you outsource large parts of your business to remote staff, team communication presents quite a challenge because you can’t just smooth out communication problems over a coffee and an emergency meeting. Thankfully there are some great aids that we can use to meet this challenge and here we concentrate on one in particular – the Smart Pen.

Relaying clear and accurate instructions to remote staff whose first language may not be English is vital for any outsourced business. The Livescribe Smart Pen was designed for college kids to record lecture notes but its use has expanded.

The pen uses a built-in microphone, recorder and micro-computer to record audio when you start writing on the special paper that comes with it. So when you go back to the notes you made and tap on a word the audio that was recorded at the time will be played back.

This can be used in meeting situations to record what people say, but an even smarter use is that it can be used to provide clear and detailed instructions to virtual assistants, as recorded audio and video can be uploaded (made private with an access list) or sent to them as a task. The pen will synchronise written, visual instructions by video and the audio you recorded when writing the instructions, leaving less room for misunderstanding or errors by virtual assistants and, in fact, making it very likely that you will get exactly what you’re after from them because of your virtual team communication.

The real beauty of the Smart Pen for the supervisor or the boss is that it is extremely portable (being the size of a normal large biro) so that you can record job specs even when you’re away from the office. It has a long battery life and tucks neatly into your shirt pocket to take anywhere with you. If you have a brainwave in the Gents it’s righty there with you!

The Livescribe Smart Pen is one great tool for improving virtual team communication. Other great advice on communication and managing your virtual team in general can be found in The Outsourcing Profit Machine workshop. Just click here to learn more about it.

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