Last modified 04/11/20

Speaking in online meetings: My 21 top tips for more impact

by Elizabeth Van Den Bergh

“Speaking on video is like speaking under a magnifying glass.” — Elizabeth

When the coronavirus came, online meetings became the new norm. As you’ll have experienced, speaking on video is a bit of a different game from speaking in a live environment.

Here are my tips for speaking well in online meetings. Apply these tips — or even just a few — and you’re sure to make a great impression on the others in your virtual room!

What makes an online meeting so different?

  1. Because you’re physically separated from the other, you’ll need to compensate for this virtual distance. This means your full mental presence is required. If you are only half present, and your thoughts are somewhere else, this shows! If necessary, energise yourself before the webinar using the tips below.
  2. Your body language is harder to perceive, so the effect of your voice is amplified. Use and apply articulation, intonation and rhythm for clear speech.

Practical speaking tips for online meetings

  1. For sound quality, make sure to connect an external microphone to your laptop or tablet. This can be a simple set of ear- or headphones with microphone included. It doesn’t have to be expensive — just the fact that the microphone is close to your mouth does wonder for the sound quality.
  2. Your dress code is a plain, possibly coloured shirt, dress or top. I would personally always have covered shoulders even if it’s a hot day.
  3. The less distraction there is in the background the better. If available, sit in front of a white (or unicolour) wall.
  4. Make sure your face is well lit. Daylight is best. Avoid backlight and, if possible, have light coming from both left and right so both sides of your face are lit.
  5. Look into your webcam when speaking, especially when you start speaking and towards the end of your intervention. In the middle, you can alternate between looking at the screen, looking at other participants and looking above your screen when you collect your thoughts.
  6. To make the previous point easier: make sure the webcam is comfortably at eye-height. This way you’ll look mich better on camera, too. Use a laptop standard if necessary. You can always stack a few books under your laptop.

Warm-up before your online meeting

  1. Energise the body: Stretch and open the ribs. Bend knees. Bend to the right, hand on head. Bend to the left, hand on head.
  2. Breathing – 3 times: Focus on a spot anywhere in the room. Open up your diaphragm. Take a deep breath in through your nose and breathe out through the mouth to the count of 6, 8, 10.
  3. Projection: Stretch your throat. Yawn. Stretch. Sing notes from high to low across the room
  4. Practice tongue twisters for better articulation.
    • Unique New York, Unique New York
    • Sally sells sea shells on the seashore
    • I’d like a proper cup of coffee from a proper copper coffee pot

Tips on how to get the most out of your voice

  1. Open wide: A lot of voice problems stem from constricting your throat or closing your jaw. Stack two fingers, place them between your teeth and count to ten. Remove your fingers and count to ten again. With your mouth more open, your voice should sound more energised.
  2. Relax: Yawning can release upper body tension and so allow the larynx to find its neutral position and a comfortable pitch for your voice.
  3. Check your endings: Nerves can make your voice lose volume or variety as you speak. Try to finish sentences with as much vocal energy as you started with, and to end assertively.
  4. Pace yourself: You’ll sound more in control and be less likely to mumble, swallow words or run out of breath.
  5. Pause: Think of pauses as verbal punctuation. One beat is a comma; two, a full stop; three, a paragraph break.
  6. Get to the point: Cut filler words (like, sort of).
  7. Breathe: Remember, breath is fuel for the voice.
  8. Mind your articulation
    • Lips: Babababababa all over the room; now papapapapa
    • Roll Rs
    • Tip of tongue: dadadadadada, tatatatata, nananananan
    • Back of tongue: gagagagagagagagagaga, kakakakakakakaka
  9. Use plenty of emphasis. iMAgine an AUdience anAlysis proves our inNOvative inSUrance company DEcades of sucCEss.

What tip have you found especially effective? Maybe you have one to add? Let us know in the comments.