Communicating with any team via teleconference or web session is challenging.
When the team is spread across the globe, your task as a presenter requires real 'global smarts.' Do not overlook the importance of adapting your message and slides to the audience conferencing into your call.
Here are 10 quick tips:
1. Simple is better!
Use basic language, without slang or jargon. Recently, I heard of someone who made the mistake of not reviewing their slide deck for language that a global audience might find unclear.
One slide was titled with an expression most would understand, 'Don't be a Sour Puss.' As the presenter said this to the international audience, someone commented, "That sounds awful." Not only did the slide create a distraction, but it took people off task.
2. Create descriptive titles
All slides need titles that make the point of the slide obvious. Global listeners will depend on titles. Complicated slides will frustrate and annoy.
3. Go visual
Add pictures or graphics to your slides. A visual representation of your idea is effective to help people grasp the point of your slide.
4. Send a preview
When possible, send your slides to the audience a day early with a reminder of the agenda. Reviewing the overall content of your slide deck before the meeting will aid comprehension. Additionally, people with English as a second language often read English better than they speak it.
5. Amplify your energy!
A dynamic speaker captivates the audience with an energetic and enthusiastic voice. A virtual audience can't see your body language. Remember to breathe deeply to encourage extra volume.
6. Speak slowly
Particularly as you begin your presentation. It allows listeners to adjust to your accent and the pronunciation of your words. Make sure your thoughts come to a definite end. Do not string ideas together with 'and.' If you speak quickly, the audience will miss much of what you are saying.
7. Sound check
Be sure to ask, "Can everyone hear me well?" When possible, use a headset to alleviate potential issues with people hearing you and to facilitate movement.
8. Smooth transitions
Provide context for the listener when transitioning to the next point. "Slide 5 will display our results for the third quarter. I want to discuss what is in red."
Virtual participants will access slides at different rates of connectivity. Refer to the slide number to ensure everyone has the same view on display.
9. Pause often to check in with your audience
"Now let me take a moment to ask for your thoughts on my proposal. What is the potential benefit for our team members in China?" Regular pauses allow listeners time to digest your ideas and share beneficial feedback.
10. Ask open-ended questions
To engage the virtual audience. 'Yes or No' questions limit interaction. Do not expect your global audience to interrupt you with a question. In some cultures, it is considered rude to interrupt.
With more businesses operating in the global environment, effective virtual communication skills is key to your personal and professional success. Small adjustments in what you say and how you say it, have tremendous impact in building business relationships. Applying 'global smarts' will help teams operate face-to-face in a virtual environment!
We have all heard speakers who are exceptional - their message is clear and it is delivered in a compelling manner.
People like Steve Jobs, ex CEO of Apple Computers, Steve Ballmer CEO of Microsoft and John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems fall into this category. However, these gentlemen would be the first to tell you they weren't born being a gifted speaker. They practiced and practiced and received good coaching along the way.
Malcolm Gladwell, in his book, Outliers, says those who fall into the "Best Category," whether they are musicians, hockey players, surgeons or speakers, practice more than anyone else, a lot more. Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours of practice to move into the "Elite" grouping.
While you may be thinking, you might as well give up now; stop for a moment and think about how you can practice and be coached to improve your current efficiency and effectiveness.
We all attend business meeting after meeting. In any one day, we may attend three or four meetings. Each meeting is an opportunity to share a well constructed message or idea and to deliver it fluidly. Each meeting is also an opportunity to receive coaching and formal and informal feedback.
Before an important meeting, do a practice session with your mentor, boss or team and elicit their suggestions on content and delivery and make the necessary changes. In a staff meeting where you will be a contributor, tell a colleague to give you informal feedback on something you have been practicing. "Hey Jack/Joan, I have been working at extending my eye contact to a full sentence or thought with people. When my update is over, can you pay attention to whether I am looking at people one at a time for a full sentence or thought each?"
In many organisations, communication has been identified as a key initiative. Everybody needs to work at getting better. Often a checklist is available for a boss or manager to complete on any speaker they may hear. Formal checklists typically highlight areas of strength and areas for improvement. As you improve a skill, move towards conquering another.
Outside of the work, we may belong to professional associations or clubs. These environments are also great places to practice and count toward your 10,000 hours. Over coffee, while socialising at your accounting association's monthly meeting, practice a balanced posture. At your book club, when it is your turn to review this month's selection or offer an opinion, be sure you practice having energy or infection in your voice.
With our friends and family, we can have many opportunities. You can certainly practice eye contact around the dinner table, vocal variety while reading to your toddler, or broader gestures standing in your yard talking to your next door neighbor. You can even practice on your own in front of your bathroom mirror. Many diligent souls use their cell phones to monitor volume, fading or filler words, such as "Ums and Ahs."
If you think about it and are dedicated, you can amass a thousand hours in no time at all. However, you must make the commitment. You must want to be called "Best."
Remember, people identified as strong communicators rise in an organisation. Those with mediocre or poor communication skills eventually stagnate or are asked to leave. The payoff for hard work is well worth the effort it takes to practice.
Go for this!