Among the many effects of the pandemic is the exponential growth of teleconferencing and video conferencing (by Zoom, for example). Businesses are holding virtual meetings daily and sometimes multiple times per day.
That increased frequency affects workers throughout the organization. It’s not just executives or managers who are participating in the virtual meetings. Even junior staff are involved at times. And while you may not view a Zoom meeting as a presentation, it is. You’re sitting (or standing) at home instead of standing in front of an audience. It’s important to remember some basic principles as you participate in the meeting.
Principles of presentations apply to virtual meetings
Each time you speak during a virtual meeting, you’re talking to a group of individuals. Therefore, you should follow the same principles you would if you were speaking before a group.
Let me stress that everyone works at this. I do. I was a member of a Toastmasters Club for more than five years. I used that time to, among other things, rid my speech of various quirks. Some are still out there; it’s a life-long journey.
These three tips will help you do well during the virtual meeting.
Eliminate filler words and verbal tics
Filler words are just that: words spat out while you think of the next phrase or sentence. The most common are “um” and “ah,” with “you know” and “you know what I mean?” also heard frequently.
Verbal tics are words that are used repeatedly out of habit. They add nothing to the statement, and actually undermine the quality of the presentation. Notice that most of these filler words occur at the beginning of a sentence. It’s as if we feel we need a transition to the beginning of a comment. Eliminate these, and dive right into your comment.
So: “So let’s take a look at your capture page.” “So you see that your copy isn’t that strong.”
And-so: “And so we modeled this test after one we ran last year.” “And so that allowed us to continue with the study.”
Go ahead: “Go ahead and type in your name.” “Do you want me to go ahead and place the order?”
Like: “I’m like…” “He’s like…”
Most of these have a purpose. We have a knack for using them in the wrong places. The solution involves pausing for a second or two and training yourself not to use the word or phrase. Instead, concentrate on the next portion of your comment. Eventually your speech will improve.
Look at the camera while speaking
Eye contact is important for any presentation. While in front of an audience, you know to scan the room, making solid eye contact with various individuals. Doing so helps keep the audience tuned into your presentation.
The same is true for virtual meetings. The eye contact is achieved by looking at the camera or lens while speaking. It’s OK to look at the group images while someone else is speaking. But as soon as it’s your turn, look at the lens. Use your peripheral vision to sense how the audience is reacting (nodding their heads, for example).
Your audience sees you looking at them, which has the same effect as during an in-person meeting.
Speak clearly and use vocal variety
Participants generally are more at ease during a virtual meeting. Standing in front of an audience tends to bring out the jitters. Even so, you want to be understood during these conversations.
Speak clearly each time. If you tend to speak fast, force yourself to slow down. Pay special attention to words you shorten. ‘Generally’ and ‘general’ sometimes come through as ‘genrally’ and ‘genral’. (I can speak from experience!)
‘Remember can come out ‘member’. (“Member when we used to go swimming in that lake?”)
For any words that cause difficulty, spend several moments each day reciting them. Usually by simply slowing down, you’ll enunciate words properly. And get over another bad habit.
Vocal variety involves altering the volume of your voice and its pitch. Avoid droning on or speaking entirely in a rapid-fire sequence (common when speakers are nervous). Remind yourself that you’re speaking to a group of colleagues or friends. Speak conversationally, and you’ll do fine during the virtual meeting.
A final tip that is unique to virtual meetings (whether by video or phone): Listen carefully to avoid speaking over another participant. It’s easy to do when you’re excited to make a point. Wait for a natural break in the conversation. If need be, during a video conference you can raise your hand (in front of the camera lens) or use the ‘raise hand’ button to get the moderator’s attention.
Mute your microphone when not speaking. Keep those annoying noises — chewing, rustling papers, barking dog — from being carried throughout the meeting.
For related reading, see More tips to improve your presentation skills (and the
additional articles embedded there).
Do you have additional tips for participating in a virtual meeting? Feel free to comment below.
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