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March 26, 2020

3 Tips to Work From Home in Virtual Environments

Many of us are now thrust, without preparation, planning or knowing what to do, into a working in a full digital environment- chats, instant messages, audio and video platforms. This can, and often, does, change the dynamic between individuals and within teams. In the video below, I share three tips you can use to transition to this new work from home (WFH) reality. These tips are based on working from home myself for more than 3 years as well as from coaching sessions I have had with virtual, global teams. Hope you find it useful. The transcript of the video is below the video for further clarification if necessary. 

[00:00:00] Hello, everyone, I'm Jennifer Kumar from Authentic Journeys. I'd like to share with you three tips to help you to transition into your new work from home and digital communication environment that you're now thrust into without maybe any or much warning because of the Coronavirus pandemic. And maybe you're on lockdown or you are in quarantine and you can't go outside. I'm going to tell you the three tips that I'm going to go into each of them by detail and then wrap up the call. This isn't a call say I'm already thinking I want to call because I'm actually used to work from home.

[00:00:36] OK, so the three tips - boundary - set boundaries. Two is have buffer time for all of your meetings or digital communication interactions. And three is to speak and articulate more clearly.

Tip 1: Set Boundaries for Your Work Schedule 
[00:00:53] OK, so let me go to detail boundaries. What do I mean by that? Well, now you have your system. Maybe you have your actual laptop from work in your house or your monitors or some other paperwork or other materials that were actually in another building far away from your house. Now they're actually in your house and you get to see them and interact with them and touch them 24 hours a day if you really want to. And maybe you can do that, especially if you're an expat or a transplant. You're working away from home, away from family. And all you really have is work because you know of anyone living with you. And also, maybe, you know, you just get obsessed with work. Who knows? With everything else going on, with all the other stress we're under. Some people throw themself more into work. Everyone is different. So set boundaries for yourself. Before this situation, we had a quarantine or lockdown yourself in the house with your system, in your materials. Remember, you actually had a good boundary set up, right? Because you you could take your commute to work that helped you to transition your mind into the work environment. And, then only once you got into the office at 9:00 or 10:00 or 11:00 o'clock in the morning, you log in and start using your system and checking your emails. And then at five, six or seven, when it was time to go home, you shut everything down and maybe you didn't have to check any messages or any phone calls or any emails after that. And plus, you didn't have your system with you to do that. So I made it a lot easier. So what do you do at 6 or 7 o'clock when you normally used to leave the office, shut your laptop, shut your laptop. And if now you are getting messages over slack or even your own personal mobile device, mobile phone, try your best just to wait till the morning to check it, if possible. This might not always be possible, but I'm coaching some expats and transplants around this right now. And 90 percent of the pings can actually wait. It's just that sometimes when you're expat or a transplant, especially if you're not around your family, you could thrust yourself more into work and get lost in that and then realize that you didn't have any time to relax and you're all stressed out. So let's not have that happen to on top of everything else where it can be a good release, a good way to stop thinking about other realities of the day that are going on right now. Find some other hobbies, maybe reading or doing some exercise videos from YouTube in your apartment. Something else to keep your mind occupied so that you're not going to get stressed out too much over work. So that's tip number one. Set the boundary.

3 Tips to Work From Home in Virtual Environments

Tip 2: Buffer Time (Plan Buffer Time into Online Meetings)
[00:03:51] Number two is the buffer time. Now, what do I mean by that? Usually when you're in an office, when you're meeting people face to face, you can actually finish that interaction a lot quicker than when you have to call somebody on the phone or now you have to organize a meeting over Zoom or Skype. And maybe you've never even done that before. You're still fumbling through that. You're still learning how to do all that. So, even even under the circumstances, that's a new situation. And you're still fumbling through learning how to use the digital communication channels. And that's why it's taking more time. It's still going to take more time later. Like when you once you start getting used to it. What the what the best practices is, usually they say, you know, you'll probably be able to finish between 60 or so, 60 to 75 percent of what you plan on from a from an actual face to face meeting. So if you had like usually an hour full of activity, discussion points and brainstorming sessions and all that and a normal face to face meeting, probably that one hour of information you can really only cover maybe, you know, 30 to 45 minutes depending on the number of people and their connections. And if they get disconnected or all of that stuff is also the technical problems come into play. So try to limit the amount of talking points you have in all of your meetings if possible, or try to summarize them and not speak so long as possible. So that's number two is the buffer time.

Tip 3: Articulate Clearly
[00:05:27] Now, number three is to speak clearly and articulate better. Now, I tend to work with a lot of expats more than transplants, but expats that are living in the US from different countries or even people on global teams, especially from India and other countries that speak English as a second language and have to now get on a video call with somebody in the U.S. or Canada or elsewhere. Of course, before you might have had more e-mails or more chats, but maybe now you're gonna get on a call. You're gonna get a Zoom. You're going to get on Skype. You're going to get on a video. Yes. People might be able to see your facial expressions to see how you speak. Try to slow down and not speak so fast. This tip is also good for native speakers, too. So just because if you're listening to this, if you're a native speaker of English or any other language in which meetings are conducted, it's definitely better to try to articulate and speak at a more even speed for all of your audience members so they can all understand you over a digital channel. And there are about three or four other tips in speaking clearly in virtual meetings. And I did that that webinar. That wasn't a webinar. It was a podcast with Andrea Giordano, who is from Study with Andrea. And I'll link that to this video as well. So I hope you found this video useful. I coach virtual teams. I help them get used to interacting in digital platforms across cultures and maybe even speaking in English as a second language and also learning the cultural tidbits to help them be more effective when working across global boundaries. If you want to get in touch with me, it's Authentic Journeys dot info or info at authentic journeys dot info. Again, I'm Jennifer Kumar from Authentic Journeys. Thanks for listening. 

Do not hesitate to get in touch with me for coaching or brainstorming ideas for you and your team. I have worked with virtual teams in over 50 companies. 

March 25, 2020

4 Awesome Startups I Met at Silicon Slopes Tech Summit 2020

Startups at Silicon Slopes 2020
It's been about two months since the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit happened in Salt Lake City, Utah. In one way, that time has passed so quickly, minus the last 10 days that we've been asked to stay inside and quarantine! Now, time seems to have slowed way down. If you have a little more time on your hands, get to know these three awesome companies that I got to interact with a bit!! 

Nice inContact - Sandy, Utah

NICE inContact works with organizations of all sizes to create extraordinary and trustworthy customer experiences that build deeper brand loyalty and relationships that last. With NICE inContact CXoneTM, the industry’s most complete cloud customer experience platform, we combine best-in-class Customer Analytics, Omnichannel Routing, Workforce Optimization, Automation and Artificial Intelligence, all on an Open Cloud Foundation, enabling an exceptional agent and customer experience—every time and on every channel. See how our customer-centric expert services, innovative software, extensive ecosystem of extensive partnerships, and over a decade of global leadership can help you transform every experience and customer relationship for lasting results. 

GPS Capital Markets - South Jordan, Utah 
GPS Capital Markets helps companies exchange funds and lock exchange rates and utilize our FXpert platform to see their company's global currency risk. Out FXpert platform allows clients to exchange funds at rates more favorable than traditional banks.

Boostability - Lehi, Utah

Boostability is the worldwide leader in search engine optimization specifically for small businesses. The company was founded on a simple premise: SEO is a necessity for modern businesses. Everyone—even those with smaller budgets— deserves to have access to it. Before Boostability’s founding, no one serviced SMB clients. Digital marketing in general was only built for those with enterprise-level budgets. 

Ten years later, Boostability has transformed the digital marketing space, partnering with some of the top agencies, publishers, and internet companies in the world to provide top-notch SEO to small businesses globally. We service clients in the United States, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Australia, and we provide them with full-service SEO. This includes fulfillment, customer service, sales, and product departments. Since 2009, we’ve serviced SEO to more small businesses than any other company in the world, making us the global authorities on small business SEO.

Boostability has three offices, two located in the Silicon Slopes of Utah, and our European Headquarters in Berlin, Germany.

FormAssembly - Bloomington, Indiana 

FormAssembly is an all-in-one web form building and data collection platform. With the combination of an easy-to-use form builder, robust integration to Salesforce, and high security and compliance standards, companies are able to save time, money, and effort. FormAssembly helps over 4,000 unique customers all around the globe improve their day-to-day processes and become better stewards of the data they collect. To see FormAssembly in action, request a demo!

FormAssembly is a fully remote company with over a decade of successful experience achieving goals on a distributed team. In light of recent global events, the FormAssembly team wants to help other organizations who are making quick transitions to a work from home structure. On April 8, 2020, you can join FormAssembly for a webinar highlighting the team’s top 10 tips for successfully transitioning to a remote work environment. Grab your spot today!


Jennifer Kumar, author of this blog met with about 50-60 companies during the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit. Thank you to these four awesome companies for allowing me to share more about you here!! To read more about the networking strategies and tips I used during this event, see Networking Lessons from Silicon Slopes Tech Summit 2020

Jennifer Kumar with her cool swag from Nice inContact and Boostability! Thank you! 

Note: Logos borrowed from the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit website. Logos do not denote partnership, but are used only to represent the companies discussed here. 

March 24, 2020

Cabot Conversations: MyStrong Circle Case Study

Recently, I (Jennifer Kumar), was approached by my long time client, Cabot Solutions in Kochi, India to initiate interviews with their clients through podcasts. I was thrilled to be 'the chosen one.' We held our first podcast/video interview recently, which has been posted to YouTube. I'd like to share that below as well as the transcript of the conversation. I hope you enjoy listening to our very first Cabot Conversation! 

Borislava Baeva of talks with Jennifer Kumar about partnering with a digital solutions company, Cabot Technology Solutions

Jennifer: [00:00:06] Welcome, everyone, to our first podcast of Cabot Conversations. I'm Jennifer Kumar here with the Borislava Baeva of MyStrongCircle. Welcome.

Borislava: [00:00:18] Thank you. Thanks for hosting me.

Jennifer: [00:00:21] Thank you for spending your time with us today. So to get started, how would you like our listeners to know a little bit more about MyStrong Circle?

Borislava: [00:00:31] Yes. And MyStrong Circle is a digital platform for multi fitness club memberships. So we are a marketplace that connects fitness into consumers to their best fitness clubs in their neighborhoods or where they work.

Jennifer: [00:00:52] Oh, that sounds really interesting. So is that like where they can actually go to different places or they're going to one, you know, one fitness club...

Borislava: [00:01:03] They're going to three. So it's neither. We are approaching the multi club usage a little bit differently with a little bit more personalization. So we let our consumers create their personalized memberships by bundling two or three fitness clubs of their choice into one membership. So instead of jumping around, like for example, in Chicago there's 800 clubs. You can pick your favorites and have unlimited access to those clubs. Like, for example, if you have a favorite yoga place, but you also want to add some spinning and boxing, you can kind of create your own personal fitness routine without complications.

Jennifer: [00:01:47] So MyStrongCircle sounds like it's pretty much completely online or a digital platform?

Borislava: [00:01:53] Correct. Yes, we're completely a digital platform. We connect consumers with physical fitness clubs, but we exist online.

Jennifer: [00:02:05] So obviously, since you are online and digital, you're definitely looking out for a good partner to help you create your digital solution. How did how did that process evolve? How did you come to know about Cabot Solutions?

Borislava: [00:02:21] So so, yes, that was probably once the idea became more finalized of what the business model looks like. That was that was our next big step is to find the right development partner, because this was ultimately what was going to make or break our business. And that process took close to nine months because as a self-funded founder, I obviously didn't have millions of dollars at my disposal to be allowed to make an error for my partners. So I did a lot of interviews with companies both in the US, here in Chicago or in other places of the US and all over the world. I'm originally from Bulgaria. We spoke with different companies in Bulgaria and other Eastern European countries. And we always wanted to balance. We knew that we did not want to go with just someone in their off time on the weekends in their bedroom, going cold for us. We wanted a full fledged company that had diversity of skills, is professional and reliable. So we wanted as much as we were on the budget, we also wanted to balance the quality and Cabot was selected by chance. I was speaking with someone here in Chicago, another female founder that has another really cool market marketplace concept, digital market based concept. And she had used Cabot and she highly referred them. And voila. We've been working with them for over a year now. So yeah it was the referral was what definitely what helped us made the decision. And obviously as we started the conversation, it was pretty obvious that would be the right partner for us.

Jennifer: [00:04:23] Wow. That's an incredible story because I'm sure going through that process, there's a lot of ups and downs, ins and now. I'm so glad that you could find a good partner in Cabot. How has your experience been working with the team?

Borislava: [00:04:39] It has been great. Communication has been great. The level of professionalism has been great. I think the diversity of skills.... The diversity of skills I have seen from different team members that have worked on the project is wide.... That has also helped like having more kind of a personal interaction and feel like you're not working with a team that is thousands of miles away and you have no control and that has not been my experience, it's been more than great.

Jennifer: [00:05:16] One of the phrases you're using quite a lot is "diversity of skills." Would you be able to share some of your thoughts around this phrase and how this applies to the project?

Borislava: [00:05:27] Yes. I mean, right now it's toward the end of February. We are about to launch our Web platform. Our platform is not easy, which is the other reason why we wanted someone with the skills and professionalism of Cabot. It's not something you can just get out of the box, so, you know, having those diverse experiences really, really helps.

Borislava: [00:06:03] And even now, we're transitioning and starting to develop our mobile app. Again, I'm not looking at another software, a development company. Cabot has those skills and can help me in its super easy and flawless transition into developing, continuing to develop our product.

Jennifer: [00:06:24] So if you had the kind of rate.... rate the team on a scale of one to five or one is kind of the lowest in five kind of being the highest. Where would you put them on this rating scale and feel free to share some additional information if you like.

Borislava: [00:06:40] So definitely so far it's been a five. I haven't had an experience where it would be anything less than that.The one thing that, you know, I've talked a lot about their communications and just professionalism, but what I've also noticed is the team that I'm working [with] is insanely dedicated to this project and it seems very genuine, not kind of forced from the top. You know, I think my project team right now also adjusted their schedule to accommodate a little bit of the time difference. So we have a little bit longer time in the morning to to go. We have a know, especially now through launch. We have been on Skype almost every single day. [sic]

Borislava: [00:07:34] I appreciate he's working on weekends, some very long hours, which is something I feel really bad for. But he's taken to heart that, you know, we had a launch date and we were able to meet it. You know, we're still fixing a few things. But, you know, that that that has been a great experience to see that dedication from the team as well.

Jennifer: [00:08:05] May I ask who who is on the team that you're working with?

Borislava: [00:08:09] Sandeep and then Bindu is the account manager.

Jennifer: [00:08:13] I know. I know. So Sandeep and Bindu so, yes, you're in safe hands.

Jennifer: [00:08:18] Is there any other areas where you feel that Cabot exceeded what you would have expected from this process?

Jennifer: [00:08:27] I think, you know, I mean, I am a that non-technical, non-technical founder of a tech company. As I think that the you know, they have been really patient with me and kind of also in explaining different terminology, not terminology, but the options that we have, I think that has also been a great learning experience for me as well.

Jennifer: [00:08:49] So effectively, we could say Cabot helped you launch your business.

Borislava: [00:08:54] Absolutely. Yes.

Jennifer: [00:08:56] That's incredible. Yeah. Yeah. That's amazing. What a feeling for everyone involved. Everyone should be very happy about that. So is there anything you'd like to say to summarize our talk today or any final thoughts you have?

Borislava: [00:09:11] Yes. I mean, as you know, as a you know, MyStrong Circle as I said is a tech startup and Cabot has been one of the most important piece of our success so far.

Borislava: [00:09:28] As I mentioned, you know, we are pre-revenue but we're just about to launch. But we were just named one of the 50 startups to watch in 2020 in Chicago. So we were really proud of that.

Borislava: [00:09:42] So those are great successes that we hope to materialize in the future for something that will grow into a successful business. But again without Cabot, we will not have that product. And those successes.

Jennifer: [00:09:57] That's incredible. Well, congratulations..

Borislava: [00:10:00] Thank you.

Jennifer: [00:10:00] And glad that we could all be part of your journey, your success journey up to this point and continue into the future.

Jennifer: [00:10:07] Thanks. Definitely. We are looking forward for the future as well.

Jennifer: [00:10:10] Awesome, we're all very happy about that. So thank you so much, Borislava of MyStrong Circle I'm Jennifer Kumar on behalf of Authentic Journeys for Cabot Solutions.

Jennifer: [00:10:20] Thanks, everyone, for listening today. And see you in the next episode. 

This transcript was created with Sonix. You can also transcribe an audio or video up to 30 minutes for free. I did have to read through and edit it. It was about 90% correct. Check out the affordable Sonix transcription here

Related Posts:

Working With Americans: Stories and Lessons from Cabot Solutions
Engaging Employees and International Clientele: A Conversation with Cabot Solutions

March 21, 2020

Podcast: Top 5 Pronunciation Tips for Virtual Meetings

The Top 5 Pronunciation Tips are in bold below along with the video transcript.

Andrea: [00:00:10] Hello, everybody, and welcome to the English with Andrea podcast. I'm your English teacher, Andrea Giordano from study with Andrea dot com. And today we have a very special episode of the podcast because we have a special guest on the podcast today, Jennifer Kumar from Authentic Journeys Dot Info. And Jennifer Kumar is the Managing Director of Authentic Journeys, where she provides cross-cultural coaching and training for Indian and U.S. remote and virtual teams. Jennifer is based in the United States, but has spent many years living in India, where she trained more than thirty five hundred global professionals on cross-cultural skills in the workplace and many other topics in addition to Jennifer's cross-cultural training experience. She also holds a certificate in TESOL from the University of Arizona. So welcome to the podcast, Jennifer.

Jennifer: [00:01:15] Hello, Andrea. Thanks for having me.

Andrea: [00:01:17] Yeah, I'm so happy to have you.

Jennifer: [00:01:18] it was a great introduction.

Andrea: [00:01:20] Well, you're so accomplished. It was easy to write. And and I'm so glad you're on the podcast today.

Jennifer: [00:01:26] Awesome.

Andrea: [00:01:26] Yeah, thrilled about it. Yeah. Yeah. Jennifer and you did it all out a little bit.

Jennifer: [00:01:30] Yeah. Go ahead.

Andrea: [00:01:31] So no problem.

Andrea: [00:01:33] So Jennifer and I have known each other for many years and have worked together and collaborated on a few projects. And I just love the expertise that she brings to the field of cross-cultural training. I've always been intrigued by it and she has a wealth of knowledge to share about culture. And also today, some about pronunciation. So as all of you know, by now, the Coronavirus is not new to any of us. It has spread all over the world. The Coronavirus was just classified as a pandemic, which pandemic is a word that means a disease that spread to a whole country or over the whole world.

Andrea: [00:02:19] So we are all experiencing the impacts of the Coronavirus. And in the business world, because of the Coronavirus, companies are having to rethink the way that they do business. Many companies like Amazon, Facebook and others are requiring their staff to work from home (WFH). And it's something that's being talked about in many companies just beyond ones that are used to working virtually. So that means that many of our business interactions will be taking place on a virtual platform. And that's a huge change for a lot of people. It can be especially difficult for people who don't speak clear English. When you are face to face it's easier for people to understand you. But, when we are in virtual meetings on a platform like WebEx, Google Hangouts or Zoom or even Skype, there are some things we need to do to make sure that people can understand us and we can understand them. And so that's why we have a professional training expert on the podcast with us today who specializes in virtual meetings. So, Jennifer, why don't you kick us off? You're going to share some really great tips for us today about virtual meetings.

Jennifer: [00:03:44] Yeah. Wow. Yes. That was a really thorough introduction to the topic and definitely very pertinent to today's, especially today as an to day today.

Jennifer: [00:03:56]'s news. I know so many people who are moving over to the virtual platform and not only in the U.S., but in India and many other countries who may not be used to it all the time or they're used to it, but maybe not to the extent for every meeting, every day in and out, especially if now there's going to be working from home rather than the office where the office they only had one virtual meeting a week or a couple a week.

Jennifer: [00:04:25] Now they're going to have to do everything virtually so that it's a different dynamic.

Jennifer: [00:04:33] So I'm going to talk about five different pronunciation tips that can help you regardless of being a native speaker or a non native speaker. And maybe it can help in other languages other than English as well.

Andrea: [00:04:46] Great.

Jennifer: [00:04:47] Yeah. So the first one and I think you're an English teacher and I teach English in a cultural format. Also, I teach cultural training to people who don't speak English as their first language. So the first thing I have to do is enunciate clearly the the speed at which we speak is the first tip.

Tip 1: Don't Talk too Fast or Too Slow

Jennifer: [00:05:11] We don't want to speak too fast and we don't want to speak too slow. We want to sound natural, but we want to sound good so that someone could hear us and understand us regardless of where they are in the world, even if they're in the same country as us. There's so many different accents, even in the same country.

Andrea: [00:05:32] Yep

Jennifer: [00:05:32] And, even as you said in the introduction, there are people who aren't used to the virtual format and they're just more comfortable in person. But, now they're maybe they're not using video all the time like us. So I'll give a demonstration of this.... my earbud fell out..I'll put that back then.

Andrea: [00:05:52] Okay.

Jennifer: [00:05:53] So first, we don't want to talk too fast like this. Hello, everyone. I'm Jennifer Kumar here to kick off today's meeting. And we're going to talk about three different things. And everyone will not follow you...

Andrea: [00:06:04] That doesn't work.

Jennifer: [00:06:07] But then if we go too slow. Hello, I'm Jennifer Kumar. I'm here to talk about three things at today's meeting and also my facial expression purposefully changed. I don't want to finish that. We'll take way too long. So that's basically too robotic. We don't want to sound robotic. We want to sound natural.

Jennifer: [00:06:27] But right now, not too fast. Not too slow. And even if I have an accent, hopefully that the correct speed hopes to nullify maybe some of the accent sometimes.

Andrea: [00:06:40] Absolutely. Yeah, I think that's one big mistake that a lot of second language learners make. They think, well, you know, native speakers speak quickly. So if I speak quickly, they'll understand me better. But in fact, it's actually really challenging for native speakers or other people to understand what you're saying when you speak quickly. So it's kind of not what you would think. It's counter intuitive. So slow it down for the most part, but not too slow. Right. And then also for those native speakers who are on a call, just because you're dealing with someone whose native language is not English doesn't mean that you have to speak really slowly or that you have to yell into the microphone. None of those things, right. We went to talk at a normal speed, but just not be too fast. Not be too slow. I love those points.

Jennifer: [00:07:36] Yeah. And actually, one of the things I kind of facilitate people I train around, I mean, in the training room, we do it and they don't need to be in training room to do this. You can just take a handheld recorder or maybe your iPhone or whatever and come up with three or four lines to say them your normal speed. But you might not be going this medium speed, but just say it at your normal speed. Try to slow it down for the next one. Then speed it up for another one and then maybe ask, if you're brave enough,you can ask people for their feedback. Which one can they follow better.

Andrea: [00:08:07] That's great. Yeah, I love that. Yeah. We're afraid sometimes to ask for feedback, but it's way better than just letting people think oh, I just can't understand that person. They would much rather hear..they would much rather have a chance to give their feedback about how you speak so that you can be better understood.

Jennifer: [00:08:26] True. True. Perfect. So that's the first the first tip is don't talk too fast or too slow. The second one is to project your voice.

Andrea: [00:08:35] OK.

Tip 2: Project Your Voice

Jennifer: [00:08:37] So if you're in a one on one meeting, this might like we are right now we're in a one on one interaction. Maybe projecting the voice may not be necessary all the time, but if you're in a situation where you happen to have a couple people in your room and you're sitting around the table, you want to make sure that everyone can hear you because you might not be wearing your own microphone.

Jennifer: [00:09:04] You might be sharing a microphone with somebody else. So if you don't talk loud enough, the the microphone might not pick up your voice clearly or at all sometimes depending on where the microphone is. So always know where the microphone is.

Andrea: [00:09:20] Yes.

Always take note of where you sit in
relation to the microphone, especially
in a shared space.

Jennifer: [00:09:20] Is it on the table in front of you. I've seen somewhere it's kind of like on the wall in front of a meeting room. So that's pretty far away, actually.

Andrea: [00:09:30] Right.

Jennifer: [00:09:30] So you want to make sure that people can hear you. Talk loud enough?

Andrea: [00:09:36] I've even seen some people with headsets not have the microphone next to their mouth. Maybe it's up on the top of their, you know, the headband part or in different places. And you're right. You need to know where that microphone is, whether it's in a room or on your device somewhere. It's important to know where that is so people can hear you.

Tip 3: Maintain Good Posture 

Jennifer: [00:09:55] Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So. Kind of piggybacking off of the second point, the third point is to maintain a good posture. You always want to sit up straight. And I mean, even if you're not on a video, especially if you are in a video, you want to look nice.

Jennifer: [00:10:10] So obviously sitting up straight looks good rather than like slouching or leaning in and looking scary because their face gets too big. Right.

Andrea: [00:10:18] Yeah.

Jennifer: [00:10:19] Or like leaning back.

Andrea: [00:10:20] Oh yeah.

Jennifer: [00:10:21] Make you look bored and you don't want to do that. And also when we talk about posture, we want to be careful because if we do have a microphone of some kind on the table, we don't want to bend down because now I'm bent down and maybe my voice doesn't sound as well projected as when I'm sitting up straight..

Andrea: [00:10:41] Absolutely.

Jennifer: [00:10:43] Likewise, you might have a microphone. You don't want to bend down into it like this because that also might stifle your clear voice.

Avoid bending over the table to talk into the microphones,
like the ones embedded into the island of this confecre table.

Andrea: [00:10:50] That's right.

Jennifer: [00:10:51] Yup. So we want to be careful with those points, for sure.

Andrea: [00:10:55] Absolutely.

Jennifer: [00:10:57] And if we put the microphone too close to our mouth, I don't know if it works here, but maybe with you or your super cool microphone, it does.

Andrea: [00:11:04] I can hear it. There's a there's definitely a huge difference. And I'm sure even our podcast listeners who can't see you, they can hear the difference. If we're too close to the microphone or too far away.

Jennifer: [00:11:15] Yeah. How did that sound to you, actually?

Andrea: [00:11:18] Well, it sounded like this claustrophobic and it just doesn't work.

Jennifer: [00:11:24] And sometimes it echoes a little bit.

Andrea: [00:11:26] Mm hmm.

Jennifer: [00:11:28] So some people what they do is they get confused because if they tend to have a voice that's low in general, like from point to if your voice is a high enough to be projected, well, some people think, oh, well, if I put my mouth on the microphone, even though I'm talking low, they'll hear me better. What was your opinion of that?

Andrea: [00:11:48] I mean, it's just uncomfortable. It makes people think about you and how close you are to the microphone as opposed to what you're actually saying, you know?

Jennifer: [00:11:57] Right. Yeah. So there's various things to look at there.

Andrea: [00:12:02] Yeah. Good tip.

Tip 4: Make Sure Everyone Can See You

Jennifer: [00:12:03] So good posture is always really nice and important. And if you happen to be in a meeting with more than one person and you're on the video, just make sure that everyone can face the video in such a way that everyone can be seen. Sometimes you want it to stagger yourself if there's multiple people. Some people I'm working with in India are still going to the office at this point. So they are working around a conference table, maybe four or five people on a meeting at a time. So I want to make sure that whoever is on the video on the other side can see everyone clearly. So that's point three... 

Tip 4: Prepare in Advance
Jennifer: Point four is prepare yourself in advance. Now, if you're not used to being especially like the facilitator of a meeting, it might take a take a little bit more time, which would to go into all the details right now.

Jennifer: [00:12:51] But a quick tip might be OK. Maybe you're doing on a regular scheduled meeting. And in my world, most people do what they call a standup meeting, where they go in and give a status update about what they've been working on for the last week or few days. So you kind of are to get the context in your head about what you're going to say. But let's say you're not used to being on that call alone or you're going to facilitate that call now. Just take a couple of minutes before the meeting to actually get in that get in the zone kind of thing. Right. Like prepare yourself to.

Andrea: [00:13:25] Yes.

Jennifer: [00:13:26] OK. This is what I'm going to say. This is the format. This is the flow. I'm going to do this first.

Jennifer: [00:13:32] This second and this third. If you need a little sticky note next to your computer, it's OK. Your clients or your colleagues aren't going to see that on the other side. Just anything to keep you in order and in the right flow is helpful.

Andrea: [00:13:47] I like that.

Jennifer: [00:13:48] Yeah. So if you could prepare and if there's any words that are going to be new to you that day, maybe you could take a few minutes to learn and practice the pronunciation in advance.

Andrea: [00:13:58] Absolutely. Along with names. That was something I was going to mention. Is any key words that you don't really know what the meaning is.. look those up ahead of time, find out how to pronounce them. Just Google them and there'll be a pronunciation there and the names as well. It's really important to practice those before you get on the call so that you're not fumbling through it when you're on the call. We're just calling someone by the wrong name.

Jennifer: [00:14:23] Exactly. Exactly. And actually, if someone's going to be facilitating the meeting for the first time and there's various people maybe not in the same room, but they're dialing in from six different locations, for example, and you're going to facilitate or even be in that group discussion. You want to be able to transition your points of discussion to the next person. So the use of someone's name at the end of that is a good group discussion skill.

When stakeholders call in from various locations and are on video,
look at their body language to notice who may want to speak up.
Andrea: [00:14:49] Mm hmm.

Jennifer: [00:14:50] For instance, you're on my team. So I finished speaking and I say, OK, Andrea, would you like to take over from here?

Andrea: [00:14:56] Perfect. Yes. Yeah. Yes, I'll take over. Yeah, that's that's exactly right.

Andrea: [00:15:01] Because we can't make eye contact with the other people in the meeting. So that's where we have to utilize people's names in many cases. Another way I want to piggyback on top of that is I've been in many virtual meetings where people are talking over top of each other because there's some delay or it's just difficult. You don't know when someone's about to take a breath in and speak. So if it's a larger meeting, you might want to consider as the facilitator to employ raising hands if if you have a question or when to interject something. So they have virtual hands and a lot of those meetings and that kind of helps along with that if it gets to be a bigger, larger group.

Point 5: Listen and Use Visual Cues
Jennifer: [00:15:44] Perfect. And actually, I mean, that's a perfect kind of segue to the last point, which is listen and use visual cues. So if you have video that's obviously perfect and depending on the platform you're using, you may be able to see everyone's video at the same time and kind of get a general idea of how they're responding. Sometimes before people talk, they go or they make some body language.

Andrea: [00:16:09] Right.

Jennifer: [00:16:10] So you could maybe see that and work against that accordingly. If you don't have a video like you said, maybe you can just. Sometimes you can kind of here like someone breathing a different pattern that takes a bunch of skill to get used to it. But if it's a one on one meeting, it might be a little easier than if it's, you know, five on one or something like that. But with with the other thing is some of the platforms will also showcase a name on the screen. If someone starts breathing or talking or laughing, so then you kind of know who it is and then you can use that if you don't remember people's names. That's actually the platform can help you there.

Andrea: [00:16:54] That's right. It's hard to identify sometimes what voice goes with which name, but you're right up there name. And so that's a great way to match those two together.

Jennifer: [00:17:05] Yep. Perfect. So I went through all the five points. There's just a few technical things that might be helpful too. And I think we've touched on a couple.

Jennifer: [00:17:14] Doing the sound check before you get into your meeting. I mean, if it's an ordinary, everyday, regularly scheduled meeting, I'm sure that relationship you built with your clients or colleagues is going to help you a little bit in case you kind of fumble through the first few minutes getting the sound corrected or something. And we had that. Before we started today as the podcast, but we had the same problem. But if it's a high stakes meeting, you definitely want to get into your meeting area. You know, maybe half an hour early or at least 15 minutes early if you need someone to help you set up your space and also the background and everything. In addition to your soundcheck, you can you can. That will also help you get in the right mood, because if you're not in the right mood and you're jumping and thinking, oh, a technical problem, then people get nervous and then they can talk faster or they can stutter. I can't replicate stuttering, but I mean, there's a lot of different things people do when they get nervous. So you don't want to be in that in that situation.

Andrea: [00:18:17] Absolutely.

Jennifer: [00:18:19] A sound check....and then if you have any conflicts with any team members in advance and I don't mean like you're arguing with them, but I mean like time conflicts, like, for instance, if they can't enter the meeting on time, someone is going to be a little bit late. You still want to know how to handle that so you can actually start your meeting on time. Now, this is more of a cross-cultural note, especially for people working in maybe a more flexible time cultures and then people, they're going to be meeting people who are very rigid time cultures. You're from a flexible time culture. You still need to start that meeting at exactly like two o'clock with the flight with your client or your colleague in the in a very rigid time culture. So you want to make sure that, you know, if people on your team are like entering late, you can still start on time. But just mentioning, you know, these four or five no, hopefully not four or five, one or two at the most, people are going to be a little bit late today. And this is why. So that's just a cultural note outside of our tips.

Andrea: [00:19:23] Yeah.

Andrea: [00:19:24] Love all those. Those are so helpful and I'm just thrilled that you shared those with us and that you can help people set people up for success in this kind of new era that we found ourselves in. We're virtual meetings are going to be the norm. The good news is, is that there are so many great tools that we can use to have virtual meetings. Like I said, Zoom or Google Hangouts, Skype, WebEx. There's all kinds that we can use these days. And businesses are more and more prepared to tackle these challenges as they come up. But I think these tips are great to help individuals be confident when they're in virtual meetings and just realize that there's a learning curve to all of it. And so it might be challenging in the beginning, but the more you do it, the more you get used to it, the more it will feel just like a conversation of two people in the same room. So, Jennifer, anything else you want to add?

Jennifer: [00:20:22] Well, if you are working from home and you're not used to it, just make sure you know you're not wearing your pajamas on your client meeting the video.

Andrea: [00:20:32] I like that one. Yeah. Just be aware your mute button is your friend. There's a mute button, which mute means to be completely silent. You want to stay on mute. If you're not actively talking so that you don't get that background noise, it might even be like your air conditioning kicks on and it might cause a problem with the audio or your dog is barking or, you know, someone knocks at the door. So use that mute button. That's the other thing I would say is it helps audio just in general.

Jennifer: [00:21:02] Good, good. Additional points there about the background noise.

Andrea: [00:21:06] I've been in so many I've met so many people's dogs through virtual meetings. All right. Well, we're going to wrap it up. Jennifer, I just want to thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today.

Jennifer: [00:21:18] Let us know where people can find you. What are you working on? What would you like to share with people?

Andrea: [00:21:23] Well, thank you, Andrea. I'm right now, as you mentioned in the beginning, based in the U.S., I'm in Salt Lake City, Utah. That's around five hours by drive from [Las Vegas] Nevada. So where we're north a little northeast of Las Vegas, Nevada. 

Jennifer: [00:21:37] Because a lot of people don't know where Salt Lake City is, but they know where Las Vegas is.

Andrea: [00:21:41] Sure. Sure.

Jennifer: [00:21:42] So I generally work with a majority of clients in India who I had made relationships with when I lived there for about seven years. But I meet new new clients and new students all the time. Hopefully I'll meet I'll meet someone through this video, too.

Andrea: [00:21:57] Wonderful.

Jennifer: [00:21:59] And just work virtually generally. So I get a lot of just like you get a lot of experience working in this platform or other platforms. On the virtual spectrum with people mostly from India. But I've worked with people from other countries as well. So we do team building training programs. We do one on one coaching for the team, building programs. Just a lot of different topics which I'm not going to list here. But generally when we meet because we're making it virtual, we we can't, of course, sit in a room for eight hours. Nobody wants to do that.

Andrea: [00:22:32] Right.

Jennifer: [00:22:33] So, we break up, say, an eight hour training over a period of, say, a couple weeks or a couple months or longer, depending on the topics.

Jennifer: [00:22:41] We might meet for an hour and a half this week, next week. Until it's over. Some classes, they do homework or pre work to implement some of the techniques that we discussed. So, for instance, if we're talking about, okay, how do you are you going to facilitate your first virtual meeting? We went through some of these tips. So at the end of the class, I'll say, which one do you want to practice till next week? So everyone will choose one or two things they want to really focus on for themself. The next time when we come to the class, we'll do a debrief and see how everybody was able to implement or not, or that's challenges they face when implementing some of those tips. And then we'll continue with the class as usual. So, you know, the virtual platform does make us have to be a little bit more creative and and how we not only conduct, say, classes, because a lot of schools and colleges are going to have to do this now.

Andrea: [00:23:32] Absolutely.

Jennifer: [00:23:32] And we're going to be conducting virtual meetings is a little different. You have tended to do things with more time.

Andrea: [00:23:40] You have to think of things with more time happening in the background, like a normal meeting that happens in one hour, face to face might take, you know, actually an hour and a half. So we might have to either have a longer meeting or break into two meetings or take out some points, prioritize the points you need for today and do the other points some other day.

Andrea: [00:24:01] Absolutely. Or we might even flip the classroom where we send all of the reading or kind of the pre-work for that class ahead of time and then that virtual you know, virtual face to face is limited. Then in the time that you need.

Jennifer: [00:24:15] Exactly. Yeah, that's that's. Yep. And that's what I've been trying to implement with some of my programs as well. So that's perfect.

Andrea: [00:24:23] Wonderful. So how can people contact you, Jennifer?

Jennifer: [00:24:26] Oh, well, through my Web site. Authentic Journeys dot info, I guess an email address you could use is info - I N F O at authentic journeys dot info.

Andrea: [00:24:37] Perfect.

Jennifer: [00:24:39] I'm on LinkedIn with both Jennifer Kumar and Authentic Journeys.

Andrea: [00:24:45] You're so active on LinkedIn and you always share some great articles there. So I highly recommend reaching out to Jennifer there.

Andrea: [00:24:51] And just in general, hire Jennifer. She's awesome. I love the work that she does.

Andrea: [00:24:56] She's she is great for helping your company move forward in virtual training and then also working with U.S. companies. And so you can reach out to her in any of those ways. If you're on the podcast, listening to the podcast today or watching on YouTube or on my site, I just want to say that I'm here to help. If you have any pronunciation questions that you have. So my specialty is an English pronunciation. And I have a course called Clear English Pronunciation. It's all about teaching you how to speak English clearly. So when you're on these virtual calls, people can understand what you're saying and you can better understand what people say.

Andrea: [00:25:39] So if you're interested in that course, it's at Study with Andrea dot com slash speak so you can check it out there.

Andrea: [00:25:48] I want to thank you, Jennifer, for joining us today and thank all of the listeners today for listening. And until next time, happy learning.

Jennifer: [00:25:57] Bye bye, everyone.

This transcript was created with Sonix. You can also transcribe an audio or video up to 30 minutes for free. I did have to read through and edit it. It was about 90% correct. Check out the affordable Sonix transcription here

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Image credit: Carlos Leopoldo Magaña at flickr.

Authentic Journeys: Bridging Culture on Virtual Teams

We help build effective, culturally competent global teams with focus on the cultures of the USA and India. Jennifer Kumar, Managing Director, an American citizen, has almost 10 years experience living, studying and working (owning a business) in India. Authentic Journeys Consultancy is registered as a Private Limited in India (Kerala) and an LLC in the USA (Salt Lake City, Utah). We provide onsite and live-online instructor-led courses, facilitation and corporate coaching.