working remotely

Photo by bruce mars from Pexels

In November’s post, I introduced the concept of managing your “virtual presence” when working remotely or interacting with remote workers. You’ll recall there are 4 areas of focus.

  1. Managing Expectations
  2. Managing the Content
  3. Managing Your Voice
  4. Managing Your Visuals

In December, we shared tips on managing the visuals. This month, we’ll focus on the voice! Specifically, why does the voice matter, and what should you do about it? It matters for several reasons:

1. Prevalence: Our research shows as much as 70% of virtual communication is via conference call as opposed to any form of videoconferencing, meaning we have only the voice to give us important clues about how communicants are feeling about the topic, the message, or each other.
2. Opportunity: Our research also revealed people’s deep frustration with conference calls because of monotone, “robotic” voices with little or no emotional expression, overuse of filler, people speaking too quickly or too softly, run-on sentences, and other bad habits that we’ve come to accept as “normal” for this medium.
3. Impact: Vocal nuance helps listeners fully understand and appreciate others’ perspectives. If we can’t send or receive accurate vocal messages, we run the risks of misinformation (due to lack of true comprehension) and underdeveloped relationships. In fact, a recent study by Michael Kraus of the Yale University School of Management has found that our sense of hearing may be even stronger than our sight when it comes to accurately detecting emotion. When we miss emotional cues, the impact can be huge.

What to do:

1. Take responsibility for your own voice on the phone. Speak in a natural tone, manage pace and pause, and check in to ensure others can hear and understand you. Sit properly and allow yourself to express your emotions. For example, scroll up and look at the picture above. Good news: People are smiling, and that comes through in the voice. Bad news: People are leaning over the phone, which cuts off the air supply and makes the voice more robotic.
2. Evaluate your vocal effectiveness. Use the voice memo function on your smart phone to record your side of a phone call, then listen carefully. Do you sound natural, or robotic? Do you vary your tone, pace and volume to truly express the meaning in your message. (BTW, hate the sound of your own voice? Here’s fascinating info on why!)
3. Ask for feedback from people who experience you vocally. Specifically, ask folks who experience you both in-person and on the phone to see if you express yourself differently (better? worse?) on the phone.

You can create a new normal for conference calls!