Language & Communication in Online Meetings

Language & Communication in Online Meetings

English language & culture training- meetingsGreat to be published in the Focus UK magazine, sharing my article in this latest edition on language & communication in online meetings for their international community. Always love receiving my copy as some fascinating topics to read about! 

 

Read the full article here:

Language & Communication in Online Meetings: Whether you’re a Zoom-ie, Skype-ist or Google Meet fan, you want to make sure you know how to express yourself well, communicate any technical challenges during the call & connect effectively with your British contacts with your language. Find out how you can become an online meeting communication pro.

Online communication was always important for remote & internationally based teams, but it was never the default position for most people until a few months ago. Now this is the reality & the way we use our language & non-verbal feedback during online calls really matter more than ever. If you want to build rapport, connections & come across professionally, then it’s important to think about your language & communication style. So here are some tips to make sure you’re making the most of these in your online meetings. 

 

Simple language & Pauses.

Whether English is your native language or not, it’s essential to use simple language & shorter sentences to communicate & aid comprehension for everybody. People sometimes assume that just because video meetings mean you can see the person, that it’s just as easy to make the connection, but that is not always the case.  Sitting with light behind you, poor camera quality or distracting backgrounds mean that visual cues can get lost, so keep your words & phrases simple & to the point.

Pauses support the interaction, and although this may initially feel strange, it can be essential to take a moment after you finish speaking to allow your attendees to digest & engage with the ideas before continuing. You can also gauge reactions in the pause & check that people are following, rather than just checking their WhatsApp or the social media latest.

 

Summarise, paraphrase, ask questions.

Online meetings can be wearing, particularly if you have several in one day and/ or English is not your first language. So, don’t be afraid to clarify & ask questions, if you are finding it hard to follow the key points. Phrases such as, “Sorry, but can I just check…” come into their own here to make sure you have understood & others are getting it too.

 

Equally don’t be shy about using the Chat function smartly, if you don’t want to interrupt the main speaker or are in a large group meeting.

It’s not just for saying hello & emojis. Zoom allows you to send questions or comments to everyone or just an individual person privately, plus there is the option to save all the comments in the chat as a file before the end of the meeting, which can be helpful if you want to refer back to what was said or you missed a key point. Skype meanwhile maintains historic chats you have with individuals or groups, which you can go back into at any point & are searchable by keyword.

 

Body Language.

Online meetings only really work for me if the video option is switched on. I do know some people prefer not to be seen or are worried about their background, but the reality is it’s more engaging to meet with somebody you can see. Be aware that even if you are using video, then it can be difficult sometimes to read others’ body language, facial expressions & reactions. This can be particularly true if you think about larger meetings, where your image becomes a small tile of many.

So, body language matters even more & some key tips include sitting up straight so you can be fully seen & you feel more energised, positioning yourself at a good distance to the screen (not too far away or too close) & remember simple basics from real life meetings like not fidgeting, eating or covering your mouth when you’re speaking.  

 

Non-verbal Feedback.

In Zoom, you can get really beyond simple emojis, if the non-verbal feedback function is enabled by the meeting host. These shortcut features are great for flagging to a meeting host if are following, interacting or need something, such as a break or for the speaker to slow down when they are talking (‘Go slower’ button). If you are the meeting host, then it’s a good way to ask for feedback during the call. In Skype there are the emoji reaction buttons, but I would say use these with caution, as they can feel more gimmicky & less professional. Google Meet has an extension to use emojis.  

 

Pin the video.

If you are finding it tricky to understand specific people because you are not used to their accent or style of speech, then I always recommend you pin their video in Google Meet or Zoom, so you can focus more easily on what they are saying, rather than a gallery view of tiles.

 

Captions/ Subtitles.

Google Meet & Skype both have really smart functions, if English is your second language or you’re in a noisy environment & you want an easier way to follow the conversation. You can turn on captions/ subtitles, which show the text of the conversation as the person is speaking. They are like live subtitles, so be aware that sometimes not all words are picked up correctly, but it’s a great support if you need it. Zoom also has an Audio transcript option which automatically transcribes the audio of a meeting that you are recording to the cloud, if you have a Business, Education, or Enterprise license.

 

Interaction.

If you’re running meetings, then make them interactive! Live polls can be created in Zoom & Skype (plus handily set up in advance in Zoom), but also don’t forget in Zoom you can annotate to build ideas together, use the whiteboard function to brainstorm, plus get feedback in the chat. In Google Meet you can simply collaborate on a shared Google slides/ doc file.

Also don’t just default to the usual 1-hour meeting time, as this can be really challenged in the online space. The latest research suggests that 30-45 mins is ideal before you start to lose people plus we all really do need more of a break between online meetings to stretch, move & importantly get a fresh cuppa!

 

Confirm the plan & actions verbally & in writing.

Particularly if you are meeting with a multi-lingual or a large group, then it can always help to confirm the key points & actions before the end of the meeting, and then follow up in writing so everyone is clear & there are no misunderstandings or miscommunications.

 

Eye Contact & Smile!

Finally, remember this is just like a meeting & the only thing is that has changed is the medium. So, keep looking directly at the camera as much as you can so people feel like you’re talking to them & smile!

 

Victoria Rennoldson, Founder of Perfect Cuppa English

 

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