This article was contributed by our friends at Knowable, a new platform for screen-free, audio-first learning. Learn more at the end of the post.
As teams across the world are forced to move from offices to remote-work environments, they face new, unexpected challenges related to communication, productivity, and morale. In particular, they may struggle to translate in-person meetings to phone calls and video conferences. It’s harder than ever to maintain your composure and stay focused—especially when you’re keeping an eye on the news.
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Employees and entrepreneurs need new skills for these changing times. Knowable, a new platform for screen-free, audio-first learning, launched Speak with Confidence, a seven-hour course in outstanding communication hosted by journalist Celeste Headlee.
Here, discover three essential tips, directly from the experts in Speak With Confidence, to help you and your team communicate seamlessly.
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Tip 1: Overprepare
Because it’s more challenging to maintain focus from your home than it is from an office, overpreparation is key to successful video conferencing. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the topic of conversation before your meetings, and think carefully about the main points you want to communicate.
Your prep should also include attention to your physical space. Amy Landino, a popular YouTuber, suggests purchasing an inexpensive lamp that you can attach to your computer to give yourself a professional glow. She also recommends positioning your computer so that the camera is slightly above eye level, then angling it down to flatter your face. But, she cautions, “It shouldn't be too high up and it really should be sort of right in front of you. You want someone to feel like they're actually sitting in the room with you.”
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Tip 2: Speak with Confidence
It’s the title of Knowable’s course, and it’s also the single most important thing you can do to make the most of the time you spend on a video or phone call. Speaking coach Pellegrino Riccardi says that speaking slowly “communicates a sense of control.” This may feel unnatural at first, but stick with it: "If it feels a little slow to you, it's probably the right speed,” Riccardi says.
Another way to slow yourself down is by taking more time to breathe. Marilyn Pittman has coached radio journalists for more than three decades and occasionally asks them to hang a sign next to their mics reading: “BREATHE.”
When you speak from your diaphragm and give yourself the air you need, Pittman says, your voice instantly becomes more commanding. “All of a sudden it has presence, it has power, it has carry,” she explains. “Exhaling the air through the vocal cords as you talk is really the basic idea here,” she adds, noting that your diaphragm should act as the “engine” for your sound.
Tip 3: Listen Actively
Communication expert Julian Treasure devised an acronym to aid in the process of active listening: RASA, or Receive, Appreciate, Summarize, and Ask. These four points should smooth the flow of communication so that everyone leaves a video call with clarity about what was achieved and what should happen next.
Receive – Give the speaker your full attention, and do so in a way that communicates your engagement. Put down your phone and look at their image on your screen.
Appreciate – Acknowledge that you’re taking in the information another person is sharing. In person, this is simply a matter of saying, “Right” or “Mmm-hmm” as another person speaks. On a video call, just nodding your head will do the trick.
Summarize – Treasure encourages people to use the powerful word “so” to get everyone on the same page. For example: “So, we’re all in agreement about…” or “So, where we need to go from here is…”
Ask – Asking questions as they come up should be a natural impulse, but many of us fail to obtain clarification at the moment when it’s needed most. Check in with your coworkers, request more detail, or even request less detail. Just don’t end a call with unanswered questions.
Remember: Remote communication is a skill, just like anything else on your resume. For a big presentation, the experts in Speak with Confidence encourage listeners to practice these techniques with friends and partners before trying them out on the job. Ask for feedback from people you trust, make adjustments, and know that it will all become easier over time.
And don’t forget to breathe.
Knowable makes podcast-style audio courses for busy people on the go. To learn more about outstanding communication, check out their course Speak with Confidence. Hosted by journalist Celeste Headlee and featuring interviews with experts like the 2019 World Champion of Public Speaking, a longtime NPR voice coach, psychologists, and business leaders, the course equips listeners with new tools to communicate more effectively and persuasively, whether IRL or across time zones.