How to get your point across with impact on video calls

What works in the meeting room doesn't necessarily work in the living room.

by Graham Shaw
Last Updated: 13 May 2020

Getting your ideas across in a persuasive way on video calls is fraught with challenges. When you are in the same room as your audience, you instinctively pick up on so many signals. You get instant feedback as they react to you. By contrast, on a video conference call, people can seem distant and literally feel ‘remote’.

Furthermore, people are far more likely to get distracted on a video call. Possibly the worst aspect of remote communication is that your energy comes across as reduced when seen on a screen. This means that your messages have less impact.

However, with a few simple techniques, you can compensate for these issues and still get your points across with impact.

1. Position camera at eye level

Often a speaker is looking up or down at the camera and is too close. Instead, position your screen camera at eye level and slightly further away. Your audience will then be able to see your gestures.

2. Look at the camera

Avoid glancing around because people will sense you are not looking at them. Keep looking at the camera and they will feel they are getting eye contact from you.

3. Slow down

If you speak too quickly people may not catch what you said. Speak slower than you would in normal conversation. Slowing down and including pauses enables a virtual audience to absorb what you have just said.

4. Vary your voice

Although you need to generally speak slower, speed up occasionally to add excitement and slow down even further when you want to be more serious.

5. Pay extra attention to your key points

Give extra emphasis to ‘land’ key messages. This will make up for the loss of impact that occurs when speaking remotely.

6. Use clear gestures

Your gestures enable you to ‘paint’ pictures so the audience will literally see what you mean. Gesturing also makes it easier for you to find your words so you will flow better.

7. Adopt upright posture and increase your energy

You need to compensate for the fact that the camera reduces your energy as perceived by your audience. Sit upright to convey confidence and credibility. Using firm gestures and a strong voice will help you lift your energy further.

8. Speak simply

When people hear long sentences, they have to hold a lot of information in their mind to get the meaning. The effect is even worse when the audience is remote. Use short sentences and simple words.

9. Make it two-way

Ensure your audience does something other than just listen by making it interactive. Ask questions, or ask for their views. You might conduct a poll or ask people to write down ideas.

10. Check understanding often

When people are in the same room you can tell if people are following you. However, when speaking remotely that is much more difficult. Therefore, frequently check by asking if everything you have said is understood.

11. Sketch an idea

You do not need to be an artist to grab attention with a sketch. It could be a simple chart or diagram. Share the image as you draw. People are engaged when they see a picture emerge gradually.

12. Use powerful pictures or video

A picture is worth a thousand words and a short video clip will add variety. If you use slides, then minimise words and maximise pictures.

Graham Shaw is a speaker coach, Business Book Awards 2020 finalist and the author of The Speaker’s Coach: 60 secrets to make your talk, speech or presentation amazing, published by Pearson

Image credit: Twitter/Getty Images

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