Make Virtual public speaking, Real!

Swati Rai

Past year-and-a-half has seen us attending virtual sessions of apocalyptic proportions. Be it public speaking engagements or select audience speak. As we gradually move from remote operations to hybrid working models and also full capacity working, one learning of 2020 onwards has been able to manoeuver online presentations, projects, public speaking engagements successfully. As trainers and teachers, most of the last year’s learning from delivering such sessions remotely, could make for a capsule course on acing virtual speaking. Here are a few to adopt and adapt, according to the context of speech.

Brass tacks of Virtual Speaking- Light, Sound, Camera, Action!

Before we even begin, we have a position to decide for the device. Phone, laptop, desktop whatever be your chosen machine, the correct angle of its placement will color most of your presentation, owning to its angle of capturing your face. Placing it either at the same height as your visage or a little above would do the trick. Keeping it below the face level is a strict no no. As is keeping it too close or too far from one’s face. The thumb rule here should be, anything distracting, needs to go. Lighting the space of work, appropriately also needs to be looked at. Too harsh or diffused a light should be avoided at all costs. Soft glittering ‘Diva light’ could be used to make the face clear and expressions clearer. The room of course needs to be prepared to be sound-proof, clean that equal professional look. This would translate into simple practices such as checking the view of the room from your camera, making a select choice of virtual background if need be, ensuring a sacred DND (Do not Disturb) hour for your class. Dressing up for Zoom sessions usually implies ‘waist-up’ adornments and the rest could well be Pajamas. However, there is no denying that natty dressing can up your confidence, make you feel less nervous right down to that kitten heels, that you could have skipped easily. Now you’re ready to ace that class!

Humanising Technology

Living as we are, in this age of gadgets it is easy to become mechanical while delivering sessions on the computer with human faces gaping at you – going on and off on your screens as blips, from a far-off planet. The essence of a lecture, talk, speech etc. lies in the connect with the audience, a virtual one too. For this personalisation of technology, a thorough familiarization with the tools of the virtual interface should be there for its judicious use, in asking questions, setting polls, seeking annotations on the collaborative whiteboard individual and group chat boxes etc.

Looking straight into that small black dot — the camera of your gadget — will give the impression that you are looking straight into the eyes of the audience. An upright posture, with the usual positive body language signs apply to an online session too. Extreme fidgety nature and rapid movement of the eye isn’t helping anyone focus on your content. Relaxing ones’ face, smiling from time to time, not squinting your eyes, using appropriate hand gestures is one of the ways to ensure a complete participation and attention of your attendees. Adding that extra laugh to make for the staccato mode of delivery will also help.

Speech Matters

Even when one is speaking face to face the modalities of speech come into play. Effective speaking skills such as throwing the voice, pitch, intonation and clarity in the vocal quality, all. Throw of voice, enunciation of sounds, clarity in speech in a virtual mode takes greater significance. Vocal quality on the mic, tonal texture, pitch and decibel levels may be checked before going live with the speaking assignment. As also recording one’s voice on the phone to listen back for clarity in enunciation of sound, word stress and intonation will help. Speaking slightly louder, not shrieking of course, with greater aspiration of each sound will aid in the clarity of the speech. Also, saving a denser vocabulary for ornamental face to face speech purposes etc., is a good idea. You don’t want to confuse the listeners with convoluted lexis, sacrificing the meaning of your speech, for appearing to sound grandiose, especially when ‘Am I audible?’ is a real refrain in virtual speak!

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