Your Voice on Conference Calls: How To Show Up When No One Can See You
Recently, I facilitated a workshop for a group of people who work in their pajamas. One of them told me that she will do her hair and makeup for the rare call when her customer turns on her video camera, but normally she doesn’t have to worry about being seen. What she has to worry about is being heard, and being heard well enough to make an impact. Sound familiar? According to Global Workplace Analytics, currently, 50% of the US workforce holds a job that is compatible with at least partial telework and approximately 20-25% of the workforce teleworks at some frequency.
Although convenient, teleworking presents big challenges for vocal impact. Some of these are gauging the interest and response of others on a call when you can’t see them, getting a chance to voice your opinion when others are louder or more aggressive on the call, and making sure that you are more important than email. The sound of your voice has risen to importance rarely realized before.
If you need help making your voice heard, here are three areas to explore:
- Get to know your voice. What do you know about how others hear you? In the work that I do, I find that most people have very little concept of how the sound of their voice is perceived by others, and yet it does create a perception. Think about someone you know well. What can you say about their voice? Is it high or low, rich or thin, strong or weak? Record your own and listen for the same things. Then pay attention to how people respond to you. Where are you effective and where are you not? You can use exercises on this blog to create the voice you want, but you have to know what you are working with first.
- Be expressive. Research has shown that people are not engaged because the emotional elements and stimuli are removed from most conference calls. When people are on mute, their immediate response to humor is gone. When people are not on the screen, you can’t see their facial expressions. And when you only see slides, you don’t get the same sense of connection with other humans. Therefore, if you want people to listen, try taking some steps to enhance the human side of meetings, add what’s missing to your voice, and encourage others to do the same.
- Prepare to participate. Always go into a meeting with the intention to participate and pipe up at least every 10-15 minutes. If you own the meeting, make sure you have prepared a real opening and close to the meeting and that you have an intention for the meeting that you can use to keep people on track and involved. Invite participation and interaction by asking others to prepare to present as well. If you don’t own the meeting, always be prepared with relevant questions or comments that you have thought through in advance.
Of course, many people you speak with have bad habits around being on conference calls. You probably can’t change those, but if you create a more interesting voice and align it with a clear intention, and always prepare to participate, you have a much greater chance of catching the ear of the listener on the other side.
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