Working remotely isn't easy and being away from colleagues can be tough, so how can we make sure that we truly connect with our audience when speaking on a Zoom call? I think it’s about being more ‘human’ than normal. The thing about video conferencing is that it’s a very technical medium. The sound of your voice is compressed and your image is digitally pixilated so that, unless we’re careful, we can easily come across as robotic and emotionally detached.
But I think there are three things we can do on Zoom calls to help with this: we should try to have a kind voice, kind eyes and kind behaviour.
To make your voice sound super relaxed and emotionally connected, try The Mini Fire Breath just before a call. This simple exercise takes less than 90 seconds:
Breathe into your lower stomach, for a count of 3 and out for a count of 3. Do this 3 times – but on the last out breath, when you have no air left in your lungs, hold your breath for 10 seconds; then breathe in one slow, full breath and hold again for another 10 seconds; and then release.
It’s great for your voice but it also calms your mind too. If you do this regularly, you’ll start to enjoy the sense of peace and silence you feel when holding your breath. I do this exercise before every single video call.
The other thing we can do, to help with developing a kind voice, is to trust the microphone. We should never feel we have to shout at the screen. In fact, because microphones are so sensitive, most people could halve their volume on video calls. Don’t feel you have to project your voice. Try to speak at a natural volume, just as you would when talking to a friend over a coffee.
Most of us are currently spending far too long on our computer screens and, if we’re not careful, we’ll cause long term damage to the health of our eyes.
So, to relax and calm your eyes before a call, try this exercise:
Rub your palms together, then put your warm palms over your closed eyes and keep them there for 30 seconds. This gives your retina a chance to recover from the glare of the screen and feels genuinely calming.
The other thing you can do is to turn the brightness of the screen down by 30%. This will relax your eyes and stop you looking like a rabbit caught in headlights.
And finally, because we’re holding eye contact with the screen, both when we’re speaking and listening, we need to keep a little smile in our eyes (where appropriate, of course). The Inner Twinkle makes you look engaged with the conversation and makes it look like you want to be there!
You don’t want to look down at someone on Zoom call - you want to have equal status. So try lifting your laptop by putting it on a couple of books. Then, with the camera about eye height, look directly into the lens, just as you would if you were looking into their eyes.
Try to use people’s names whenever you can. When working remotely it’s great to hear someone saying your name. It makes you feel valued and recognised in the group. And, if you’re hosting a call, try to welcome everyone by saying their name.
To create a sense of natural flow, we should make it clear when we’ve finished speaking. The Mute/Off Mute nature of video calls means that conversations can easily feel stilted and forced. Essentially, we must learn to ‘hand the ball back’. This encourages others to know when to come in.
And try not to speak over people as they are talking. Make them feel you are truly listening by either looking gently into the lens or making notes. Take time to be a kind listener. Let’s be kind and try to make other people feel special on a call.
Like most of us, I’ve had to adapt the way in which I connect with my clients over the last 9 months. I’ve moved most of my coaching online and have actually come to love it. It’s not quite the same as meeting face to face, of course, but if we consciously try to build a human connection every time, by being kind, it can work pretty well.
I wish you the very best of luck for a safe and happy 2021.
Robin Kermode is one of Europe’s leading communication coaches working globally with senior politicians, business leaders, media personalities and corporate teams.
He is a popular keynote speaker and author of the best-selling book SPEAK SO YOUR AUDIENCE WILL LISTEN. His podcast, THE ART OF COMMUNICATION, has over 20,000 listeners. Robin has been an actor for over 35 years and is a recognisable voice over artist (he is the MC of the ATP World Tour Finals each November at The 02 Arena in London).
He is a respected media commentator, contributing to a wide range of newspapers, and is the leading body language expert for The Telegraph, The Guardian and the Daily Mail.