January 7, 2021

3 Tips to Speak Confidently in English in Virtual Meetings

Most likely, you're a non-native English speaker looking for strategies that you can apply to communicate more effectively with confidence in a virtual business environment, is that correct?

Well, I hope so, because you have come to the right place. I'm Jennifer Kumar from Authentic Journeys, and I'd like to share three strategies with you that you can apply today to communicate with more confidence and clarity in virtual business environments with native English speakers from any country. Although, I specialize in helping you work with your counterparts in the U.S. In this video, I'm going to talk about those three points. I'm going to list the points first, then I'm going to elaborate on each of the points, and then I'm going to summarize this video.


3 Tips to Speak Confidently in English in Virtual Meetings

  1. Prepare in advance
  2. Speak clearly and articulately 
  3. Breathe and listen
Watch and listen below. Follow the script underneath if you are getting used to the American Accent.



[00:00:58] Are you a service provider providing a service to a U.S. client? Well, this puts you in a very unique position because you can prepare more things in advance.

Strategy 1: Prepare in Advance
[00:01:14] You should be driving the engagement.

[00:01:16] You should be the one scheduling the meetings, sending the meeting invite, setting the agenda and coordinating and facilitating the discussion in the meetings. If you're not doing this as a service provider to a U.S. client, we can help you change that around because that will allow your team to set a better, more trusting relationship with your U.S. client. Now, let's say you're not a service provider or you're not coordinating a meeting, but you're just coming in to a meeting and you need to discuss points. You need to discuss your status update or some other information during that meeting. Well, regardless if you're the meeting facilitator or not, you can do a few other things to help you to prepare in advance.

[00:02:09] One is you do know some of the things you need to discuss. Take a few notes, write it down. In a virtual meeting, the good thing is nobody sees that you have any notes. See, I have some Post-it notes here. You can have your Post-it notes on the side. Nobody will even know. Also, beforehand you can practice by talking into your voice recorder and then listening back for your pacing. And- are you talking too fast or are you talking too slow? You can listen to yourself so you can be prepared. Now, when you have your Post-it notes or your notes around your laptop, on one hand, one side, you can put your... your outline like I have my three points today, prepare in advance, speak clearly and articulately and breathe and listen. I have it right here. Right. It's easy. I can't... I don't really have to memorize anything and nobody knows because we're in a virtual environment. So, hey, why not right? And then on the other side of your screen, you can list some words that you would like to try to insert into your conversation or into your talking points. You can also have another notepad ready to write down some phrases and words that are said by your native English speaking counterparts that you want to look up later.

[00:03:29] If you don't understand a word or phrase, the best thing to do is ...when it's your turn to speak, you can summarize what you have understood and then ask for clarity around what you missed. So you're not asking them to repeat anything nobody likes to be asked to repeat. So this is point number one to prepare in advance.

Strategy 2: Speak clearly and articulately 
[00:03:52] Number two is to speak clearly and articulately, like what I'm trying to do. We don't want to speak too fast and we don't want to speak too slow. Again, your recording device, what can you do? Write down a couple sentences and then try to see them at various speeds. 

For example, in my spare time, I like to go on hikes, walks and go swimming. That's pretty slow. We don't want to talk this slow. 

So then we take it that same sentence or a similar sentence and say a little bit faster. In my spare time, I like to go hiking, ride bikes and go for walks. Then we try to say it really fast. In my spare time, I like to go for walks, ride bikes and go swimming. I don't really like to talk that fast. That's really fast for me, although some people talk much faster.

[00:04:42] So then when you listen back, you can start kind of hearing your pacing, your speed and then you can try to slow yourself down. There are strategies to do that, which I can't really go into in depth in this video (check here). But, this strategy alone has helped some people by just recording and listening back or you can even just record your normal meetings, your voice, only because of confidentiality, obviously, and you can listen back to your own presentation voice, how does that sound? Then you can analyze it and try to tweak it and improve it for your next meeting.

[00:05:21] The basic thing is we're not telling you or suggesting that you have to get rid of an accent necessarily because everyone has one. I have an accent. You have an accent, right? Everyone has an accent. The the thing that we need to do is be able to communicate effectively. So we need to articulate clearly and we have to use the right vocabulary and we have to use our industry specific vocabulary to be taking... taken more seriously and with more authority. So that's the second point. To speak clearly and articulately.

Strategy 3: Breathe and Listen
[00:05:57] And, the last point is to breathe and listen, breathe and listen. What do I mean by that? Well, I'm breathing while I'm talking here.

[00:06:07] I'm not speaking too fast. We want to say only a certain amount of words in each breath. And we want to ensure that we're pacing based on the punctuation, as if we were writing out what we were saying. So where we have commas, where we have full stops or periods or exclamation marks or question marks, we're pausing at different lengths of time for each of these... these punctuation marks. Of course, I don't have to do any listening here because I'm the only one here in this particular video.

[00:06:39] But you want to listen. When I say breathe and listen, it's not just breathe before you talk or breathe while you talk. Breathe from your abdomen so you get that dampness of English when you speak the resonance in your voice, you don't want to speak from here because if you speak from here, you can then talk really fast is another way to try to speak fast that's why you really can't speak fast when I'm speaking from my abdomen, for example. But we want to really listen with intention when we.... when the others are speaking, when the native speakers of English, our colleagues are speaking, try not to worry about what we're going to say next or that we won't understand their accent. All of those thoughts actually get in the way of true listening. So I always suggest to stop talking and stop thinking, to listen better. And there's a lot of other awareness strategies we can envelope or wrap around that, but I don't have enough time to go into all of those during this video. Breathe and listen. Very important. You want to have your awareness up so that you can be ready to respond appropriately to what is actually being discussed. Because sometimes if we're thinking about other things, then what the person we are talking with is saying when it's our turn to talk, we suddenly, as we say in American English, are like a deer in headlights.. we are just stunned. We stop.

[00:08:09] It's OK to pause. A lot of people I coach say, hey, Jennifer, when I pause, does it sound like it's too long of a pause? Because... because native speakers just speak real fast. Native speakers have to take a pause sometimes, too, before they speak or while they're speaking to gather their thoughts. And most of the individuals I coach are intermediate to high level English learners. And most of the time their pauses are not too.....  they don't feel very out of place. It depends on how you're pacing yourself again. One way you can improve this is by listening to a lot of American English or North American English programs. I suggest radio. You can stream radio, especially U.S. morning time, morning radio programs. Why? Why this specific thing? Because it's unscripted. Most other things are scripted. TV shows are scripted, movies are scripted. Radio morning shows are not scripted. Yes, they will speak fast.

[00:09:18] But I suggested this to several professionals in Bangalore to do. Now,  anyone who knows about Bangalore, especially before the lockdowns, the traffic was horrendous. People would be stuck in traffic at a minimum of one hour to get to any place for going to work. So they would passively listen to these radio shows. Passive means just you're not really active. You're not really putting all your effort into listening to every single word. And that passive listening just two hours a day improved so many professionals' ability to listen to their Native American English speaking counterparts, sometimes by one hundred and fifty percent. I would I would be so impressed, not just in the understanding of what was being said, but other types of conversational interaction behaviors like when is it OK to interrupt or how do I know when it's my turn to talk? All of that was answered by passively listening to these radio shows.

[00:10:20] I know this video has become very long. So now I'm going to go into the summary in this session or this video. We've talked about the three points that you can apply to comfort more confidently communicate with your native English speaking counterparts, prepare in advance, speak clearly and articulately and breathe and listen. As I'm summarizing this, one more point I need to add that's really important is did you notice how I structured my presentation? I had an opening like an introduction where I told you about what I was going to talk about. And then I summarized the three points I was going to talk about and then I went into each point one by one.

[00:11:08] And then I went into the conclusion, this is how you should organize your presentations when working with North Americans. Every culture has their own approach to understanding how a message is delivered. With North Americans it has to be very linear where you have an introduction, you have your three main supporting points. If you have more than three, then you have to coordinate those under three main headers, just like what I did. If you were to actually write out the outline of what I had said, you would know that there are three main points, along with several supporting points under each of the three main headers. And then you have to wrap up your presentation with a conclusion.

[00:11:51] I hope this was helpful. If you'd like more information, you can get in touch with me through authenticjourneys.info. You can WhatsApp me. I have an India WhatsApp number plus nine one nine five three nine three four seven five two nine. And a U.S. phone number. You can call me on country code plus one three eight five two one eight zero nine four seven.

[00:12:20] Thank you so much for listening, especially if you've got all the way to the very end. I hope it can be in touch. See you later. Bye.

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.