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Meetings in camera

With agency offices locked, property people need to be able to communicate effectively online, says Simon Day, Toastmasters International

Simon Day

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As property professionals you will have been moving your meetings and presentations online. I too had to do this and have learned valuable lessons as I conducted meetings and coaching online. Let me share what I have learned to help you make your online communications more impactful.

Communication Strategies

Once I adopted online communication, I discovered several strategies that serve me well as a professional speaker are equally vital when communicating via technology:

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Simon Day

Eye contact: should be maintained 30% of the time for a conversation to be deemed fit for purpose. To establish and maintain relationships of trust and respect, this rises to between 60 per cent and 70 per cent.

In online communication, it is tempting to look at the face on screen, thinking you are making eye contact. You are not. Eye contact is made by looking at the camera lens. Stick a Post-It or arrow near the lens as a reminder of where to look when you speak. It takes practice, but it will pay dividends as viewers will feel more involved.

Choose a flattering camera angle. Ensure that the device is at eye level – nobody wants to see up your nostrils.

Vocal variety: When you give a stand-up presentation, people can see your entire person and can read facial expression, body language and gesture. Speaking on camera limits this, which places more emphasis on the voice. Varying pitch, pace and volume can help you speak with greater authenticity and emphasise key points with greater authority. It will require an investment of energy and commitment, but your voice will need to compensate for these other aspects of communication that are hindered by the limitations of online platforms. If you are delighted, sound delighted. If you are concerned, sound concerned. This will make it much easier for participants to correctly interpret your intended message.

Speaking from the heart: I am reading a book a friend gave me recently: ‘Storytelling Made Easy’ by Michael Hauge. I highly recommend it. All meaningful communication elicits emotion and our stories are one of the most effective ways to achieve this. In these difficult times, an authentic personal story can bond individuals and unite communities.

Video making

There are some simple strategies to ensure that your video is of the best possible quality to serve as an effective vehicle for your message. With his permission, I refer to Haydn Rushworth – Senior Research and Communications Officer at the National Assembly for Wales – and a superb video he recently posted on LinkedIn. In it, he shares, then demonstrates, simple but effective tips for producing better video from any device:

1 Don’t stand or sit with a window behind – you quickly turn into a silhouette. Facing a window or source of natural light gives much better lighting for your videos.

2 Find a quiet place. Background noise can be incredibly distracting for you and those you communicate with.

3 Use a tripod, wall or lean your device against a steady object to ensure the video is smooth. Keeping a steady shot allows you to replicate a face-to-face conversation and ensure people maintain focus on you.

4 Look at the lens, not the screen.

5 Ensure you are in focus – this can be done on most smartphones by simply tapping the screen and ensuring the lighting is adequate.

6 Choose a flattering camera angle. Ensure the device is at least at eye level – nobody wants to see up your nostrils.

7 Film in landscape (horizontal) mode where applicable – the video is then easier to post and view across multiple platforms.

Making the Experience Better
  • Communication is highly nuanced. When we speak in person, it is much easier to read facial expressions, observe gestures, detect body language and discern variations in vocal tone. All these combine to give us a clearer a picture of precisely what is being said from how it is being said.
  • Online communication can present barriers to detecting some of these nuances. Poor video quality may obscure facial expression, intermittent audio reception may betray the subtle variations of the voice and restrictive camera angles may hide the true meaning of body language or gestures.
  • A HD webcam, good pair of over-ear headphones and USB microphone are three pieces of equipment that have notably improved my online communication experience. My hands are also free to use appropriate accompanying gestures, not being encumbered with wires or handheld equipment.

I highly recommend this investment. The improved equipment will help facilitate a more immersive experience for all participants.

Simon Day is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. To find your nearest club, visit www.toastmasters.org

June 20, 2020

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