If you’re working from home, you might well be getting that work done using Zoom, Skype, WebEx or Hangout.
But we all know that a meeting over video conference is a lot bumpier than one that’s face-to-face, especially when there are more than a few people involved. It can be tough to follow what someone is saying; tricky to interject without crashing into another speaker and a challenge to stay focused and engaged given the number of verbal and visual distractions we’re having to deal with. Sure, part of the problem could be laggy tech, but it may also be that our delivery style isn’t helping.
Video call quality is dependent on a number of technical factors, including bandwidth, packet loss and latency (or ‘ping time’). If these are poor, we face jittery audio, crackles, echoes and a frozen visual. We can compensate for these by adapting our style.
Here are few things to be thinking about when you switch from in-person to remote communication, based on what we know from years of experience helping people improve their communication and presentation skills.
The key principle to remember when communicating over VC is, think about everything you’ve been taught about how to use your voice, then amplify it.
On a VC, our voice has to work so much harder when it doesn’t have our body language to support it. Gestures and facial expressions aren’t as effective over VC as they are face-to-face, and so the voice has to compensate.
- Speed: Speak at half your normal rate, especially if you’re sharing new information or explaining something complex. Most of us underestimate how much time our audience needs to absorb, process and analyse what they’re hearing. If they haven’t had a chance to fully process your idea or your point of view, it’s possible they’ll feel more comfortable rejecting it than admitting that they haven’t quite grasped it.
- Ditch the monotone: Use greater range of pitch, or put another way, avoid being monotone. It’s tough to distill meaning from a monotonous voice. You might feel silly, but attempt a more ‘sing-song’ style. Using the full range of notes in the voice brings in more emotion and that makes it easier to process what’s being said.
- Emphasise! By emphasising the important words in a sentence, you’re making it much easier for the audience to hear your message. Try saying this next sentence, out loud, in two different ways. “Demand has increased by 25%”. First, say it ‘flat’, then say it again but this time really emphasising and slowing down on the number. Go on, try it out. They will really hear that “twen-ty-five-per-cent“. Listen closely to TV and radio presenters – notice just how much they use emphasis to ensure they’re crystal clear.
- Enunciate more than you would normally, especially if your mum/dad/partner nags at you for mumbling (I hate to break it to you, they’re probably right). Enunciation is ‘clarity of articulation’. Try saying this tongue-twister three times before your next video call to improve your diction: “I slit the sheet, the sheet I slit and on the slitted sheet I sit”. To avoid er, messing up, move your teeth and lips much more than normal, then replicate that technique on the call.
If you’re doing all this well it will probably feel unnatural. So practice a few times, really go for it, record yourself and listen back – you’ll be surprised how normal, and polished, you actually sound.
The one thing we don’t need to amplify is our volume. So if you’ve got a soft voice, you can relax, as long as you’re close to the microphone. In fact, raising our voice on a video call can make us sound wooden and formal. Try to talk as normally as you can and the conversation will feel more natural.