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] …today’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.
More tips to build a confident voice in English
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Check out Andrea’s course: Clear English Pronunciation
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Image credits for conference rooms and map: Jennifer Kumar
Image credit: Online meeting at Pixabay