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Public Speaking on Video Calls

In this unprecedented time of the COVID-19 Pandemic, people have had to make a lot of changes to how they communicate. One of those adjustments has been that most people have to make use of video calls in their everyday lives, whether it be for work or school. Since this is a new way to communicate for most of us, it may be hard to navigate how to be an effective public speaker.

With that being said, here are some tips for public speaking on video calls:

  • Think about your background.
    • Since we are not used to having to worry about public speaking in the privacy of our own homes, sometimes we forget that everyone can see behind us over video calls. Try to be mindful of this.
    • You want people paying attention to you and what you are saying, not what is going on behind you!
    • Try to make your background less distracting so people will want to focus solely on you and what you are saying.
  • Find the right space.
    • It can sometimes be difficult to get to a quiet, private space. Try your best to go somewhere that is free from background noise, pets, or other people that can distract from your presentation.
    • Attempt to sit in a professional location. Some examples of this would be to sit at a desk or at a kitchen table instead of a bed or on the floor.
    • If something occurs that distracts the audience, simply apologize for the disruption and move on.
  • Turn ceiling fans off.
    • We all enjoy the white noise that a ceiling fan can make inside one’s home, but for a video call it can be very distracting and take away from the speaker.
    • Ceiling fans are also very disorienting for people watching the video call, especially if they can see the fan consistently spinning around above the speaker.
  • Dress like the audience is sitting in the room.
    • We are not used to having to wear business casual attire in our homes, but when speaking through video call, make sure that you are dressed appropriately for the occasion.
    • For a work meeting or a class presentation, you should be dressed in business casual attire.
    • Try to avoid wearing anything distracting, such as loud jewelry. If you are using appropriate hand gestures while speaking, the jewelry will distract the audience.
  • Pay attention to your camera.
    • Try to keep your camera still and at eye level when possible.
    • It is disorienting to the audience when the camera is constantly moving.
    • Camera movement causes unwanted background noise to occur.
    • Keeping the camera at eye level is much more professional than speaking down to the camera.
    • Try to make eye contact with the camera or to make equal eye contact around the room as you would in an in-person speech.
  • Be an active audience member. 
    • Always remember to turn your microphone on mute when you are not speaking to avoid unwanted background noise.
    • Make use of the chat function on the video call to avoid interrupting others.
    • Use hand signals like a “thumbs up” to signify that you agree or approve with a presenter’s statement.
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