Become a Virtual Chat Champ

There are dozens and dozens of articles out there on how to optimize your next video conference call—yet most of the best practices, tricks and tips you’ll come across are focused on the technical aspects of the virtual chat (VC). But what about the chat itself? And by “chat” I mean YOUR voice and delivery style.

How can we showcase our best selves while on a (yes, still clunky) device? What tricks and tips help us shine across wifi? How can we do more to connect with our virtual audiences? Here are a few tips.

Mind your vocal quality

Our devices have a hard time picking up the high tones and the low tones of our speech, making it mission critical that you project your best voice, and that you do it as clearly as possible. This means slowing down your speaking rate, enunciating (without sounding like a pronunciation guide = tricky biz), talking directly into your device’s speaker, and probably speaking a bit louder than you normally would when addressing a group in person.

Pro Tip: Sit up tall and straight-backed on the front third of your chair, or stand up to help propel your voice forward. Your breathing controls your vocal quality and when you allow for greater airflow (i.e., not being hunched over on a couch), it will be easier to project.

Your voice is your tool for showcasing your team’s great ideas. Use that tool to punctuate, highlight, and underline key language and concepts you wish to emphasize. It’s not just the language you choose—your ideas need to be seen to be understood. Your voice should transmit the energy you wish to instill in your listeners, especially if you want them to act upon your recommendations.

Pro  Tip: Pauses are punctuation. Using pauses effectively can assist in underlining and emphasizing key points, and also provide your listeners time to absorb your main messages (while also giving you a chance to think about the next ideas you hope to share).

Pro Tip: When you smile while speaking, your vocal quality brightens, your pitch elevates just a bit, and your audience is more apt to pay attention because you sound (and are!) excited about your content.

Make personal connections

Every conversation is an opportunity to connect with your audience—even if there are 20 people on the VC. Refer to your colleagues on the call by name, and often. This practice drives attention. People will be more engaged if they are cued for a potential call-out, which they will be when you pepper your talk with “As Ximena mentioned earlier…” and “MaryWynn had a great idea about…” Including people in the body of your talk keeps them—and everyone else—more engaged.

Pro Tip: Making personal connections throughout a more structured talk (both on- and off-line) allows you to add a more conversational flair, which puts both you and your audience at ease and enables your main messages to resonate and stick.

Made for video: showcase your best self

Many of us turn off the camera when on a conference call—for all the obvious reasons—but this practice actually separates you from your audience and can lead to them checking out (beyond the mute button). To hold their attention while on a VC, look directly at the camera so it appears you’re looking directly at your audience. Avoid reading too much from notes, slides, or other visual support.

Pro Tip: When planning your talk, focus on using short, direct sentences. If you must use notes, try key-word outline format so you don’t get lost reading full text.

Remember that the VC is a conversation. You’re there to gain your audience’s attention and provide an engaging introduction to the discussion or Q&A period. And remember to stay immersed throughout that portion of the VC, too. It’s tricky business, but with practice (and, yes, you should practice presenting on video before a big call) you’ll feel more comfortable and less fidgety during the real deal.

Eve Connell

Eve spends most billable hours writing, editing and helping professionals of all stripes with communication skills and leadership development. With degrees in French literature, philosophy, and linguistics, she also enjoys helping businesses and entrepreneurs develop their brands. Fancying herself a successful worm rancher, singer and flower arranger, Eve also lends her talent and expertise to several non-profit arts and educational organizations.