Perfecting Public Speaking in a Virtual World

Now a year into the pandemic, many of us have settled into the new normal of working remotely. Our day-to-day work environment consists of commuting to the home office down the hall—or in some cases, our dining room tables—and communicating with colleagues more than ever through email, Teams, Zoom and other platforms. Our old ways of conducting in-person meetings and attending conferences will be forever changed.

As we continue to adjust, we must also pay attention to how we communicate, especially verbally. Holding a meeting over Zoom isn’t like having one in person; you have to work harder to keep attention and make it through the agenda without getting bogged down in side conversations that take you off topic. You have to know what is important for the whole group to know versus what can be taken offline, in order to respect people’s time. And you have to be prepared, succinct and ready to facilitate effectively.

Vanguard invested in public speaking training and coaching to help our team gain new skills, feel more comfortable with public speaking and provide them with the tools for effective communications. Whether it’s a client meeting or a presentation at a virtual event, a solid public speaking skill set will get positive results. A few tips for success include:

  • Create a professional work environment from home by limiting distractions and ensuring that technology is tested and working properly prior to the start of meetings and events.
  • Make sure you are “camera-ready,” especially if you will be interacting with people for the first time. First impressions still count on Zoom!
  • Manage your nerves through preparation and practice; prepare your thoughts before speaking at meetings and definitely practice if it’s a formal presentation.
  • Present your ideas in a clear and concise manner, resisting the urge to repeat yourself or re-phrase what was just said.
  • Make a conscious effort to avoid frequent “um” pauses and speaking in a monotone.
  • Build energy into your remarks that convey your ideas with confidence. Be enthusiastic and positive, while also being professional!
  • Control the urge to interrupt others, especially those outside your organization such as a client or another conference panelist, who may perceive it as rude and dismissive. Write down your comments and wait for the right time to share them!
  • Focus on the meeting or event and resist the urge to multi-task, just as you would if the meeting was in-person. Remember, if you are on video, participants can see your eyes, and it will be obvious that you are reading something that is potentially not related to what is being discussed. The email can wait!
  • Manage nerves and trust yourself … you got this!

You don’t have to wear the “public speaker” badge in order to be good at speaking in public, and the more you do it, the sharper your skills will become.