Being Present for Your Listeners

To quote part of a song from the musical Hamilton, “I wanna be in the room where it happens….” Remember when we were in the same room with our listeners? We could get a sense of their energy, nonverbals, and actual interaction. This sort of feedback helped build our momentum in the moment.

Two years into this new form of daily communication, one that is separated by miles, time zones, and technology, connection and influence can feel out of reach.

As a coach, I remind people that the secret is to Stay present for your listeners even though they may be thousands of miles away. Just as you would check yourself before walking into a physical conference room, you should do the same before stepping into your next virtual meeting room. Work on these tools: Your energy introduces you before you speak. Begin with a smile. Aim your energy outward.

Keep your eyes in contact with the camera. Though many of us are taught to look someone in the eye when speaking to them, we don’t do this in a virtual setting; it may look like we are doing other things. Perhaps checking an email, or shipping order, or a multitude of things that don’t include being present in that moment. Remember that their eyes will see your eyes only if you look directly into the camera lens, not when you look at their eyes on the screen.

Make an effort to strengthen your peripheral vision. That will enable you to look into the camera and catch your viewers’ general facial expressons and movements. You can look at them briefly and then be sure to return your eyes to the camera lens to solidify the connection. A simple and effective tip is to put a post-it note or pictures of people you know next to that camera light.

Control vocal inflection that may allow your voice to go up at the end of a sentence. This implies a question. However, it may not provide the actual type of feedback you want. Listeners may nod to the voice tone of a question inflection when that may not be your intent. I’m peeling back layers of onion here, but we know that everything communicates. Remember, you are the expert on what you are saying at that moment.

Trust silence. Many are uncomfortable with silence in our busy world and look to fill it with additional information. You help listeners better understand your content if you vary your speed and speaking. Control your speed of speaking by giving silent pauses at strategic points. It gives the listener a chance to process and sort the information. We suggest inserting a pause of 2-4 seconds between main ideas depending on the knowledge level of your listener(s).

If you allow me to be direct: “It’s not about you!” You already know whatever information you want to share, so it’s about your listeners. Use these simple four steps above to help your listeners feel your presence. They will receive your message with the impact, influence, and the insight you intend.

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