Tips for clear communication in a virtual setting

Monday, July 20, 2020
Written by: Emily Hollingshead

Though school presentations, job interviews and class meetings are all mostly taking place in virtual settings, there is still a pressing need to present yourself professionally and take the communication seriously. As the world becomes comfortable using virtual communication more and more, being able to properly convey yourself and your message while you are not face-to-face is an invaluable skill.

1. Clear the clutter

Be aware of your surroundings. Find a place that is quiet and has a simple background. Not only will your audience be less distracted, but you will be more focused as well. “In any type of communication situation, you want to be able to focus on what is being said and what they mean,” said Seminole State College of Florida Professor of Communication Laura Dickinson. Be sure to put any pets you have in a different room and tell loved ones and roommates you are not to be disturbed as a way to cut down on unwanted interruptions. If your quiet place looks too chaotic, choose a tame Zoom background as your setting.

2. Professional attire

“Your credibility hinges on your appearance,” said Dickinson. “If you are just zooming to your friends and family, you can wear yoga pants. If you are talking to a potential employer or who you work for, you can’t go around in a tank top.” Putting effort into a professional presentation shows that you work hard and you take your audience’s opinion seriously. While we don’t have to worry about perfume or cologne during virtual meetings, Dickinson stresses that your entire outfit should still be professional.

3. Control your hands and eyes

Act as proper as you can, going on the assumption that they can see everything

Laura Dickinson.

While video chatting has helped us get close to a face-to-face interaction, it is not perfect. We often are not as attuned to the non-verbal communication that goes on in a conversation. Make sure you set your phone somewhere out of sight, so you are not tempted to check it, and be cognizant of your hands to avoid touching your face. “Act as proper as you can, going on the assumption that they can see everything,” said Dickinson. Controlling your non-verbal cues helps keep the attention on you and your message and helps show that you are engaged with your audience.

4. Content is king

Above all, whether you are presenting for school or for an interview, the best thing you can do is practice. “In an interview, try to keep your answers to five sentences or less,” said Dickinson. “Be aware of vocal fillers that we use to keep people from taking over a conversation. This includes all of the ‘likes’ and ‘ums.’” Luckily for Seminole State students and alumni, the Career Development Center can help you through practice interviews and work with you to improve answers to standard questions.

If you are interested in improving your speaking skills, check out our upcoming speech communication classes!

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