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Virtual First Toolkit: How to communicate effectively


Work is altering at warp elope. The guidelines and expectations around when, where, and how work happens are all in flux. It would per chance even be dizzying. At Dropbox, we’re going Virtual First, which technique we’ll be mainly allotted with in-person gatherings for team collaboration (as soon because it’s trustworthy to kind so). This is current to us and we’re restful studying how one can kind it effectively. We wrote some guidelines in response to our experiences up to now and and integrated sources about adapting to Virtual First work. We’re publishing this Virtual First Toolkit, and we’ll observe, take a look at and add more declare material as we learn. This portion is set communicating effectively in Virtual First. You may say over with the rest of the Virtual First Toolkit here: 

Virtual First technique going async by default—solving issues with collaboration instruments love Dropbox Paper, or over e-mail or Slack, before reflexively scheduling a gathering. When most of our interactions are mediated by display veil veil and text, it’ll even be easy to misread every different. So we’ll should always exit of our device to be determined, heat, and inclusive. Here’s how one can say and write in a formula that gets your point across, despite the real fact that you happen to’re across the globe. 

pencilWrite for determining

We’ve all been on the receiving damage of an advanced doc, too-long e-mail, or terse Slack message. At simplest, these lead to confusion. At worst, they construct you wonder, “Is my work bestie enraged at me?” In a Virtual First world, writing to be understood—no longer actual heard—would per chance be more fundamental than ever. Here’s how one can kind it. 

Gain determined

Earlier than you birth writing, take observe of, “What’s the one thing I want my reader to score away?” or, “What’s the one thing I want them to kind next?” Strive to be accurate (without overwhelming them with petite print) and encompass a clear call to action. “Please slither away feedback by 4 pm Friday” is better than, “Look for forward to your feedback.” 

Don’t bury the lede

Journalists speak us to “set aside the underside line on high” (BLOT). Support folk reduction in mind your point by getting honorable to it. 

Convey less

TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) is the bane of company verbal change. Respect your readers’ time by being concise. Further credit: reduce motivate your doc in half. 

Design it scannable 

Design your doc easy to digest by breaking apart spacious paragraphs into smaller ones, and utilizing valorous headers and bullet parts. Further credit: Exercise parallel improvement. Start headlines with all verbs or all nouns (nevertheless no longer every). This can furthermore merely construct your writing more logical.

Write for inexperienced persons (despite the real fact that you happen to’re talking to experts)

Short, easy sentences are more straightforward and arguably more fun to read. That’s why many smartly-known authors, love Hemingway, write at a fifth grade studying level. Somewhat than making an strive to galvanize readers with grandiloquence and erudition (ahem), space yourself to:

  • Write in undeniable, everyday language 
  • Rob remote from jargon (leverage, exhaust) and $100 phrases (grandiloquence, erudition)
  • Expose them love they’re 10 years feeble

Maintaining it easy will construct you sound smarter.

Be certain you’re making sense

Folks are timorous of wanting silly, in direct that they won’t repeatedly admit if one thing you’ve said stumps them. The next time you command, “We’re iterating on portion 3 of our PSO for the Q4 roadmap—we’ll favor to leverage our OKR flywheel here,” kind your listeners a favor by asking: 

  • Did what I said construct sense? 
  • Does everyone know what I mean by OKR flywheel
  • What else can I speak you?

And if you don’t heed one thing, make certain that to talk up. Your careworn colleagues will thanks.

Exercise emotionally shining language

An awfully easy anticipate love, Why did you construct that decision? can come across as perfectly benign in person. But it’ll feel threatening over Slack or e-mail, where we can’t read facial expressions or vocal tone. Rob remote from misunderstandings by minding your observe favor: 

  • First, seek to heed. Earlier than you jump in with feedback or an answer, make certain that that you heed what the quite plenty of person is making an strive to claim. Questions love, “Can you tell more about that?” and, “It sounds love you’re suggesting X. I’m also wondering about Y. What kind you have faith you studied?” are factual locations to birth.
  • Lift simplest intentions. Most everyone appears to be like to be doing their simplest to talk clearly. If a message doesn’t land effectively with you, try now to now not have interaction the sender meant to upset you. Whilst you happen to’re restful in doubt, take observe of addressing it at present. “In our meeting on Friday, I sensed you were enraged at me about X. Did I accept that honorable?” 
  • Run the additional mile for warmth. Fears and insecurities can even be magnified after we’re no longer all within the identical room, so we’ll favor to position in additional effort to make certain that that our phrases feel welcoming and inclusive. Sharing your ideas (“Ooh, I love that!”) and checking your sentences for terseness (“Cool”) can reduction. Don’t be timorous of emojis. smiling face with heart-eyes 
  • Watch out with humor. Irony and snark would per chance maybe furthermore merely translate along with your work bestie, nevertheless won’t repeatedly come across in an even bigger community. Earlier than laying down a zinger, take observe of your viewers 
  • Whilst you happen to’re enraged, don’t ship it. Whilst you happen to’re inflamed, it’s laborious to be goal. And reacting out of annoyance or frustration makes you less persuasive. Earlier than you ship an irksome message, wait till you’re easy and rethink

Form out your instruments 

We’ve obtained hundreds of apps at at our disposal. It’s constructive to have choices, nevertheless every so continuously the proliferation can lead to “loss of life by a thousand Slack, GChat, and text messages.” To kind our simplest work in relation to, teams will favor to set current norms around which instruments to make utilize of for which pings. 

Replace “hasty syncs” with “async, by default”

In most locations of work, synchronous verbal change (accurate-time meetings and chat) are the norm. Unfortunately, this device can lead to wasteful meetings that negatively impact our effectively-being and productiveness. As you transition to Virtual First, try asynchronous instruments (Dropbox Paper, e-mail, Slack) before reflexively scheduling a gathering.

Exercise the honorable tool, for the honorable assignment

Every company’s favor for instruments will vary. Here’s what we utilize most at Dropbox, and how we’ve agreed to make utilize of them, as we adapt to Virtual First. We’ll take a look at, iterate, and update over time. 


paperDropbox Paper

Paper is our collaborative doc-editing tool. It’s also factual for managing projects!

  • Exercise for: Writing and editing, growing ideas, gentle-weight venture management, reviewing designs, planning meetings
  • No longer so expedient for: Precise-time collaboration with spacious teams, meetings and chat, heavyweight venture management (love roadmapping) 
  • Protip: Dangle questions on your supervisor in a running 1:1 Paper doc all the device in which thru the week. You’ll have an agenda able to switch on your 1:1, and steer clear of distracting every different on Slack all week.


We utilize Gmail for in-home e-mail.

  • Exercise for: Sharing fundamental info that you wish folk to reduction in mind (it’s easy to lose observe on Slack), sharing longer doctors or instructions (laborious to read on Slack), and along side folk outside your group on comms
  • No longer so expedient for: Precise-time collaboration, meetings and chat, complicated discussions 
  • Protip: Email is a silo, so make certain that that to incorporate the honorable folk on your thread (or switch it to a shared folder or Paper doc) 


Slack is a channel-essentially essentially based messaging tool and hybrid async-sync solution.

  • Exercise for: Precise-time dialogue, easy-to-solution questions that need a brief response, station updates, checkins, building a formula of community, animal GIFS
  • No longer so expedient for: Advanced discussions, brainstorms, documenting projects, questions or issues that don’t need a brief response 
  • Protips: 
    • Slack can even be noisy, so it’s easy to fail to spot fundamental issues and neglect to reply. If one thing is significantly fundamental, try e-mail. 
    • If your topic would accept pleasure from transparency, try a community thread and no longer a DM 
    • Identify your channels consistently to construct Slack more straightforward to navigate (let’s tell, within the make org, birth everything with make-)
    • Don’t @channel the total community unless you no doubt want everyone’s response
    • Pin fundamental doctors (plans, fundamental info, contact petite print) to the head of every channel


We utilize Atlassian’s venture and wretchedness monitoring tool.

  • Exercise for: Organizing, prioritizing, and monitoring complicated projects; assigning and monitoring tasks and components; growing a single “supply of fact” roadmap
  • No longer so expedient for: Lightweight venture management, creative or make stories 
  • Protip: You may mix Jira with instruments love Slack and Gmail so that if somebody assigns you a mark in Jira you’ll explore it automatically



Zoom is the video communications tool we utilize for meetings.

  • Tall for: Conferences that no doubt would per chance maybe furthermore merely restful be meetings, making kind 1 decisions with a stakeholder, discussing complicated or emotionally sensitive issues, coffee chats and team morale 
  • No longer so expedient for: Conferences that would per chance be an e-mail or Slack dialog (station updates, FYIs, planning a future meeting)
  • Protips: 
    • Zoom fatigue is accurate. Though we want to default to “camera on,” try turning your camera off or inquiring for a cellular phone meeting if you happen to need a break
    • Silent yourself if you happen to’re no longer talking 
    • Practice inclusive meeting practices 
    • Aged a wired connection at any time when imaginable. It is more legit than a Wi-Fi connection
    • Emails, telephones ringing, Slack notifications, Calendar – Be certain you don’t have anything else to distract you have to you’re presenting over Zoom, so flip off notifications for e-mail, chat, and calendars and silence your cellular phone

computerGain expedient at meetings

Conferences are thought to be one of the fundamental fundamental techniques we retract up with teammates and switch projects forward. They’re also thought to be one of the fundamental fundamental techniques we wreck money and time. Here’s how one can kind meetings honorable after we’re async by default.

Know when to meet—and when now to now not

“Hopping on a brief Zoom” sounds benign, nevertheless can zap productiveness. Here’s how one can know should always you no doubt want that meeting.

check mark buttonAgenda it

These items merit a gathering:

  • Form 1 (laborious to reverse) decisions: love selecting X vs. Y product course or hiring a current teammate
  • Advanced issues that need a dialogue: Love defining our company fable, growing a 6-month roadmap, or revising the scope of a venture that’s in flight
  • Belief and deem: Love a venture kickoff to accept everyone on the identical web page, or a delicate-weight retro to focus on what you realized from a fresh venture
  • Emotionally sensitive issues: Love giving complicated feedback or discussing a private wretchedness
  • Supporting and unblocking your reports: Love a widespread 1:1 that helps construct their career or join their work to company dreams

no entryDon’t schedule it 

These items don’t merit a gathering: 

  • Convey updates: Whilst you happen to would buy to portion what’s up with a venture and it isn’t pressing, try Slack, e-mail, or a Paper doc 
  • FYIs and assignment documentation: Gather assignment doctors, org charts, and product specs in a central plan, love Dropbox Paper. Be concise, so folk would per chance be more probably to read 
  • Meet about a gathering: Strive to get hang of 22 situation your meetings offline 

thinking faceVoice first

These items would per chance maybe merit a gathering: 

  • Gathering feedback. Start with an e-mail or Dropbox Paper doc. Whilst you happen to’ll be in a space to’t work it out in writing, try a gathering 
  • Brainstorming ideas. Many community brainstorms are ineffective. Strive brainstorming with a Paper doc first. Whilst you happen to accept you wish an in-person session, make certain that to make yours thoughtfully
  • Tickled hours, drive-bys, and buddy chats. No longer everyone appears to be like to be energized by informal hangouts, so interrogate first 

Decline pointless meetings like it’s your job 

Whilst you happen to reduction getting known as into meetings that shouldn’t be meetings, it’s alright to respectfully decline. Here are about a pattern regrets:

  • “Thanks for along side me! I’m wondering if we would per chance maybe furthermore try to resolve this over e-mail as a alternative?” 
  • “I’ve been in so many meetings no longer too long within the past, nevertheless I’m making an strive to be more disciplined about my schedule. May per chance maybe maybe maybe we try to resolve this without a gathering, first?”  
  • “I’d be tickled to provide you with feedback on that! Earlier than we schedule a gathering, would per chance maybe furthermore I review it in Paper?”

If the team decides to switch ahead with a gathering you are going to be in a space to’t construct, take observe of assigning a delegate to signify you, and interrogate to envision the notes afterwards. 

Design predominant meetings merry 

If your meeting falls into “schedule it!” territory, here’s how one can construct it charge everyone’s time. 

Gain organized

  • Imagine timezones: Some folk would per chance maybe furthermore be in numerous areas. Strive to schedule in some unspecified time in the future of convenient times
  • Identify an owner: Any individual who can reduction everyone on observe 
  • Comprise a goal: “By the damage of this meeting, I want to electrify X”
  • Convey context and an agenda: “Ultimate time we met, we talked about X. At the present time we’re here to talk about Y. This is fundamental as a consequence of Z. At the present time we’ll duvet A, B, and C” 
  • Consist of the honorable folk: You’ll favor folk with the authority, background, or point of view to meaningfully make contributions. Productivity in general taps out at seven folk, so reduction the dimensions manageable. You may ship notes to any individual who wishes to know afterwards

Stay on observe 

  • Send reference doctors in come: If predominant, birth with a 5-minute silent read to envision doctors first and predominant of your meeting 
  • Identify a demonstrate-taker: Any individual who can reduction it easy and ship notes afterwards 
  • Be on time: Strive to provide a five-minute buffer first and predominant, and damage five minutes early
  • Design it shorter: Construct you no doubt want an hour, or would 25 minutes be enough? Undergo in mind: dialog will expand to envision the container you give it 
  • Stay with an action thought: Convey what’s going to happen next, and who will kind what

Rob all your meetings inclusive 

Diversity of thought outcomes in better ideas and smarter decisions, so construct home for a diversity of perspectives. Here’s how: 

  • Actively encompass folk who aren’t talking up: If about a folk are dominating the dialog, try, “I’ve heard plenty from about a folk. I’d buy to listen to a diversity of perspectives. Jane, I know you’re mindful of this topic. Would you be willing to portion?”
  • Design it trustworthy to disagree (or be notorious): Model openness by announcing, “After reviewing the doctors, my speculation is X. I believe moderately confident, nevertheless no longer fully obvious—I’d esteem your point of view.” Whilst you happen to disagree, say up, respectfully (and make certain that that you heed the quite plenty of person’s point of view. “It sounds love your speculation is X. Is that honorable?” {Wait a beat.} “I esteem that, nevertheless I truly have a determined point of view. May per chance maybe maybe maybe merely I portion it?”
  • Purchase it offline: When somebody veers off-topic, try to accept the dialogue motivate on observe in a respectful device. “I truly esteem this dialog and I possess it would per chance maybe warrant some beyond widespread time. Construct you mind if we score this offline so we can accept thru everything on our agenda?”

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