Can You See Me Now? How to Speak When Your Audience Is Remote

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    Smile to put more life into your voiceHow many meetings do you attend, or facilitate, in which you are speaking over the telephone or over the Internet? I imagine quite a few. It can be a little unnerving, or it can be a highly engaging experience in remote communication. Here are some tips for making the most of these virtual presentations:

    Remember your voice trumps all else. Since the listeners can’t see you, all they have to go on are your voice and your slides (if you are using them.) If you don’t know how your voice sounds, now is the time to get a voice recorder and record and listen to yourself. I know it isn’t fun, but it is an eye-opener.

    How many “umms” and “ahs” do you hear? Is your voice monotone? Do you have a good volume? How is the voice quality over your phone line or headset?

    If you found any opportunities for improvement, work on them now. It will pay dividends for years. A great way to get better vocally is to periodically record yourself in a practice presentation, exaggerating each aspect of enunciation, inflection, rate of speech, etc. Think of putting color into your voice. This exercise can help you stretch your vocal range, especially if you listen back and hear the improvements for yourself.

    Some other tips for humanizing the experience:

    1. Don’t use a script unless absolutely necessary. Your audience will be able to hear that you are reading. Instead, use notes that are less a script.

    2. Rehearse your content, as much or more than you would for a live presentation. Pay particular attention to the opening minutes, the transitions between topics, and the closing. Ask a small group or even one person to listen. Or record it and play it back.

    3. Engage the audience in the first three minutes. If you wait until midway through your presentation, the audience is used to listening only, and won’t respond as well as they will in the first few minutes. Ask them to write on a whiteboard, or introduce themselves if the class size is small enough. If you know them, do a quick “check-in” with each person.

    4. Have a helper sit in. If you can have even one live body in the room, or even on the phone, you can talk to that person. Less of the blind feeling you can get when you don’t see an audience. And maybe that person could help you with audience questions, technology issues, etc.

    5. Privatize the chat function so that only the presenter and helper can see the questions. Encourage people to ask anything they want, knowing that they will remain anonymous. This increases trust and reduces the risk of saying something they might regret. You can respond to the comment or question without revealing who said it.

    6. Put up pictures. You can post them on your wall, on your desk, or even on your computer. Make these the happiest-to-see-you faces you can. Or use pictures of your pets or loved ones so you can see them if that helps you feel more connected.

    7. Stand up. This allows you to breathe more deeply and puts more energy into your voice.

    8. Open your mouth wider. Enunciate carefully. This can keep you from rushing, and make you more easily understood.

    9. Smile. Yes, we can hear that in your voice.

    10. Keep the group small. In this way you can personalize the call, so people don’t just drift in and out of attention. There is nothing like hearing your name called with a question attached. Your audience will stay more focused if you might call on them.

    Speaking with a remote audience is more and more part of our presentation repertoire. You can hide in the dark, or you can choose to shine.

    I would love to hear from you. How do you sparkle when you speak with remote audiences? And how do you engage your audience in remote presentations?