Think about the last time you had difficulty hearing someone, whether it was on the phone, on live video, or in person. What steps could they have taken to make it easier for you to hear them?
Tone and proximity (phone, microphone, or yourself)
How fast or slow they talked
This week, I’d like to give 6 very fast, simple tips for how you can recognize and avoid these common communication pitfalls. A warning up front: some of these tips are going to go against your natural mode of speaking, and you may even feel defensive. We’re addressing ways to elevate our professionalism skills, and sometimes, that can be uncomfortable to realize we need to make a change – or several.
(If you want to learn even more about improving your vocal and non-verbal effectiveness, watch the replay of last week’s Speaking & Presentation Skills webinar. I cover these topics and so much more.)
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Are you pleasant to listen to? Do you use uptalk when you’re nervous? Do you sound less boardroom and more radio ad announcer? I’m not just talking about young people here – we all are guilty of falling into vocal habits that make our tone unpleasant to listen to, and difficult to follow. Record yourself in a video practicing how you will talk in your next meeting, then force yourself to watch it over and over again as you improve your tone to be more professional – whatever that means for you.
You may need to work harder than casual conversation to be heard clearly. If you have a gravely voice, you may need to articulate more than usual. If you have a high-pitched voice, you may need to work at enunciation.
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Speak effectively as yourself, then adjust based on your audience. With such a wide range of regional expectations for pace and the complications that come with technology, you will need to find your baseline that works well in person, and make tweaks until it fits the audience you’re speaking with.
This one is tough to master! Even when you’re in an empty home office, in your car on speaker phone, or speaking to a video, you need to use your whole body to project your voice. If you use the same conversation tone during a dinner with your family as you do when speaking on a Zoom call using a microphone attached to your computer, you can trick the computer into thinking it must boost your voice – and the background noise around you gets boosted too.
Pausing in conversation – virtual or otherwise – is a powerful way to do two things: recenter yourself, and control the flow of conversation. If you feel yourself about to cough, lose your train of thought, or feel yourself get breathy, pause. If the conversation is too crowded with ideas and voices talking over one another, pause. Giving others a chance to speak is polite; so, pause.
We are all guilty of filler words: ums, ahs, “like,” cuss words, grunts, hums, the list goes on and on. Cut them out! Practice pausing instead of using a filler word or noise. Record yourself before and after you consciously think about your filler words. Practice pausing again and again until you feel the “like” leave your vocabulary altogether!
Changing how we talk is never easy, but I hope these simple concepts have given you practical ways to improve your professionalism when speaking in any situation.
ACT Like A Pro Out There!
My next webinar on Wednesdaynext week will cover how to be a “Power Connector” and network like a pro.
It’s Session 3 of the 3-part series, “The Professionalism Update” on Zoom.
My Professionalism Update Series will help you:
Polish up the skills you put out in public
Bring your professionalism to the next level
Improve your personal branding and work on yourself
Register on Zoomfor this free webinar on June 10th!