Susie Ashfield, Public Speaking Coach, on seven secrets to staying visible when working online
Not being physically present with your team and senior leaders has its consequences on how you use language and receive/hear messages.
When it comes to staying visible and communicating to your team (upward and downward) you need to be more intentional about how you put yourself out there, communicating memorably, and sharing what your team is doing with the rest of the company.
Use video and be visible
It seems obvious but if you want to stay visible, you need to be seen as much as possible. Don’t worry about what your background looks like, your colleagues will be much more interested in seeing a familiar face than the pile of laundry you might have behind you. Do what you can to make your working environment fit for purpose, but don’t spend too much time reshuffling your bookcase – your credibility as a professional still comes from your input and not your environment. Having your camera on also encourages others to do the same.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes
‘Errs’ and ‘umms’ aren’t the end of the world, in fact they’re human. When it comes to online presentations I’d rather hear something authentic and organic than a word-perfect delivery. There’s nothing less engaging than hearing someone speaking off a script or reading the slide out loud. Working from home adds a new level of challenge and no one expects you to be faultless. Besides, the more you obsess about getting every tiny detail correct, the more pressure you put yourself under, and that can have a negative impact on what you deliver. Allow for mistakes and you’ll find you actually become more productive.
Keep it Concise
If you want to come across as clear and controlled, then the old rule of less is more really should be followed here. Confident online communicators aren’t afraid to use key messages and short statements, whereas overstuffing and adding in unnecessary detail can feel like hard work and make you come across as hesitant. Resist the urge to use 100 words where 10 would have had higher impact! The best way to make sure that happens is to ask yourself what the single most important message is, in a sentence. Once you’ve hammered that home, your job is done: wrap up and stop talking!
Show some authenticity and vulnerability – even when speaking with authority
Long gone are the days where leaders had to be infallible. Just look at Obama – it is his willingness to show emotion and respond directly to the situation around him that makes him such an inspiring communicator. Don’t be afraid to show your personality through the screen and remind those around you that you are a human being; capable of cracking jokes, expressing frustration, or even showing disappointment. Encourage a culture of openness and you’ll find that your entire team communicates in a more effective and compelling way. Sometimes the best messages can be as simple as a personal story wrapped around a key message, so get comfortable sharing.
Be aware of Body Language
Even via online video conferencing the nonverbal communication still carries huge importance, so do everything you can to come across as energised and engaged whilst presenting. Think about how you can enhance your personal style, for example, if you naturally gesticulate then keep using hand movement whilst speaking, or if you find you deliver better standing then set up your computer to accommodate that. Most importantly though, ensure you make eye contact wherever possible, and try to keep your focus on the lens and not the faces in front of you, as distracting as that can be! Finally, keep smiling. You’ll come across as personable and it’ll put your audience at ease.
Silence is Golden
Don’t feel you have to speak to stay in the picture; often you can build your presence by saying nothing at all. You can stay focused and engaged in an online meeting by nodding along to what is being said and making notes, so don’t feel you have to contribute to the conversation just for the sake of having inputted. Don’t fear silence either; it’s a natural part of human interaction and will often mean the conversation can get down to the core issues faster. Confident communicators go slow, adding in pauses to ensure they move at a steady and deliberate pace
Keep focused on others
Jane Fonda once said “it is better to be interested, than interesting” which means as much temptation there is to fill the spotlight, listening and asking the right questions can be a much better tactic in making the other party feel like they’ve had a really engaging conversation with you. Tthrow them the right lines, hang on their every word, and reflect that back to them by paraphrasing and summarising what they’ve discussed with you. This works really well when it comes to staying visible to clients; be the person they know they can get in touch with when they need someone to really listen.
About the author
Susie Ashfield started out as the voice of middle-class products on day time television; everything from Channing Tatum’s latest blockbuster to Jersey Royal Potatoes. This work demonstrated her ability to understand what it takes to get people listening.
Alongside her voiceover work, she worked as an insurance broker, managing a portfolio of high-net-worth individuals, including celebrities and business high flyers.
As a communications specialist, Susie makes the most of her unique combination of creative skills and her director-level business experience. Susie will enable you to communicate with control and compassion during high pressure or unexpected situations in order to influence and impact any audience regardless of your industry, background or ability.
Susie specialises in coaching clients to deliver high impact speeches and presentations, from effective content structuring, to a delivery that can’t be ignored. As a speaker and trainer, she now runs high energy workshops centred around powerful performance, from deal making conversations to training in ‘TED style’ talks.
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