Talaera Talks - Business English Communication

36. Virtual Meetings - Overcome These 5 Challenges As A Non-Native Speaker - Talaera Talks

February 07, 2022 Talaera Business English Communications Training Episode 36
Talaera Talks - Business English Communication
36. Virtual Meetings - Overcome These 5 Challenges As A Non-Native Speaker - Talaera Talks
Show Notes Transcript

What are some of the challenges that non-native English speakers face in virtual meetings? Learn some helpful tools that will help you navigate fast-paced meetings with international teams. Read the notes here: https://blog.talaera.com/virtual-meetings

Join a free webinar: https://bit.ly/3BSySZB
Learn more about Talaera: http://talaera.com/

Welcome to the Leora talks, the business English communication podcast for non native professionals. My name is Paola and I am co hosting the show with Simon. In this podcast, we're going to be covering communication advice and tips to help express yourself with confidence in English in professional settings. So we hope you enjoy the show. Welcome back, wherever you are to another episode of Talaera Talks. My name is Simon, and I hope you are doing well. It is the start of 2022 and our first episode of the year. Very exciting. Paola, are you excited? I am extremely excited. Yes, we have some very nice goals for this year regarding this podcast. So I hope everyone's enjoying it and keeps enjoying it throughout the year. It's really great. So this is the first episode that we do together. We've released a couple of them the shorter one, the bits. But yeah, I'm excited to do this one. It's... It's kind of crazy. We talked about it at the end of the year last year that which really feels like so long ago. I mean, we had the winter break, I guess people around Christmas, I got stuck in Florida. Just yeah, a lot of stuff going on. But back I guess and better than ever. And Talaera is in for a very exciting year. And, yeah, to start, we have a very interesting topic today. Right? That's it. So today, we're going to talk about virtual meetings, and how to overcome some of the most common challenges for non native English speakers. It can be tricky. I know we're... Most of us are really used to doing meetings online, but there's still a few challenges that we can help you overcome. So yeah, I don't know if you have any, any fun facts about virtual meetings. I have a lot. I have a lot of very fun facts. There's so we're in a virtual meeting. Now, of course, and probably most people have done some type of virtual meeting in the past two years especially. I had some that I looked into this a little bit, because I thought it was pretty interesting. I found out that this guy, Alan Saperstein, I hope I'm saying his name, right. So he's a an American Internet entrepreneur. And I guess he's kind of recognized as the first person to broadcast video on the internet in like a commercial way. And this was in 1993. So a while ago, and he created a company, it's now called on stream media corporation, which I guess holds patents to, like video conferencing technology, which I guess if that's the field in you're in, then you're doing really, really well. But really, this whole virtual meeting technology started a lot earlier. We can go back to 1956. And AT&T, they created a picture phone prototype. Oh, yeah. And so I guess that transmitted images every two seconds over public switch telephone network. So sometimes I... You know what's funny? It's like you think how much has changed... Sometimes I feel like if you're on a Zoom call, and it's lagging, you know, then kind of feels like guess what that would have looked like. Two seconds. Yeah. Imagine that. Yeah. I mean, that's some really awkward pauses, you know, every two seconds. And then, so then in 1964, actually, Bell Labs they, they debuted a picture phone at the World's Fair. And this was the first transcontinental video call. And they had a people, a group of people in New York calling a group in California and Disneyland. Oh, that's one. Yeah. So interesting. Really, really interesting. But now we're here right now we're here. And like I said, especially the past two years during COVID. I mean, what's been your experience? Have you ever done as many Zoom calls as you have over the past two years? No, not at all. So I have always worked remotely, but I used to be a translator. So that was something that didn't really require virtual calls. But definitely, since I started working at Talaera, that was about four years ago, we started doing calls but now that literally everyone really is at home and the team's growing and we're having more meetings. It's it's Yeah, many more now. What about you? Yeah, I mean, no, you know, same I guess I really was working fully in person until working with Talaera, and then everything was online. Which was a little bit weird. But then it's, it's also very weird how quickly you get used to it. And so that's yeah, kind of what, what, what my experience was, but I looked at this, like Zoom growth during COVID. It's so insane. So in 2019, profits jumped from 21 million a year, like that was their average to 671 million in 2000. And then, this is even crazier. And then sales jumped again, 326% to 2.6 billion in 2020. So I mean, you talk about like, some kind of growth. That's, yeah, that's insane. That is insane. And so with all this growth, to what extent are people getting tired of Zoom meetings with this "Zoom fatigue"? I think everyone's heard that that term, right. So is it the case that we're getting used to it? Or we're getting tired of it? What do you think? You know, I don't know. That's a really good question. I think probably, like on a macro level, right? If we talk about like a lot of people, I think it's just becoming a part of life. But I think COVID is an interesting test case, because it's so much so quickly, right? And so, we looked at this thing, you know, Zoom fatigue, and this Stanford professor Jeremy Bailenson, he, he brought up this very interesting point, he said, When someone's face is that close to ours in real life, our brains intercepted as an intense situation, that's either going to lead to meeting or to conflict. And so basically, you're in this hyper aroused state all day where you're like, is this going to end in meeting? Or is this going to end in fighting and conflict? You know what I mean? I think, yeah, you brought up a good point that we should all just kind of back up a little bit. Yeah, I've also read that some people recommend turning off your your own camera, not turning it off, but like not showing your face to yourself. That helps. Yeah, and that brings up an interesting question, right is like, is video always the best option? And I don't know, the more that I read about this and kind of think about this. I don't know if it necessarily is like, when's the last time you just had a phone call? You know? And? Yeah, yeah. Not often. But now with Slack, it offers this option to just jump on a quick call (these huddles that don't have camera), and I kind of appreciate them, I think having a nice combination of now is the right time to have a video call versus now it's the right time to have a call. thing. That's a nice thing to consider. When communicating with teams. I can't like fold laundry during a Zoom call, you know what I mean? But wait for having a quick phone call. I can like the other day, one of our colleagues called me Yeah, through the huddle on Slack. And I was just doing like, hamstring stretching, and just kind of hanging around the house. It was actually really nice. Multitasking. Exactl right. So today, what are we talking about? We're talking about some of these challenges, right? And how can we communicate effectively? So what are a few of these challenges? So just to name a few. And here this is, I think that our goal today is to go over them and provide some tools that can help, especially not native English speakers navigate these, these calls that can be intimidating. And the first one is the fear of joining an empty virtual room, or joining one where there's only one person and I feel like if if you're, if you don't feel very confident speaking in English, doing that can be super scary. Right? Right. And I mean, even still, even if you just have anxiety about you know, just like social anxiety that can be that can be difficult. Yeah, exactly. Or if you're, if there's a manager on the other side, and you don't feel confident enough, so that's a very normal fear to have, I guess, but it can be overcome. Right. So how do we do that? So one tip or tool that that people can use this to join early, and that can be counterintuitive. Like if I'm anxious, how am I going to join early? But it actually helps you set the tone and it helps you you set the right dynamics. So if you're there early, if you speak up early on, it will give you the confidence to get into the conversation, you can also almost pick how the call conversation is going to be like the tone. And so that's, that's something that I think it really works. Yeah. And it doesn't even need to be a very big thing. I mean, we have we talk a lot about small talk and all of that. And I mean, most of the time people show up on time. So if you're just there a minute early, like, why not take that opportunity? Just to Yeah, just even say, Hey, how's it going? And let the other person you know, talk about their day, you know, Exactly! Be the first one to ask, and, and also being there first, we'll let them what let people know that you're there. And then when you need to speak up throughout the meeting, it will be just much easier, because everyone will know, you know that you're there. So that will be that will be the first one joining an empty virtual room. So just joining early. There's we have this episode on Small Talk that people can also check out and get some tips on how to make it less awkward. Right? Yeah. Which is always, always something I could use. So that's great. Yeah, what else? What are the other challenges that non native English speakers may have? So this is one that we hear all the time, and it's interrupting in a meeting, and this is both in virtual meetings, but also in face to face? And it's just that small kind of voice in your head that's like, is this? Is this worth me like jumping in? You know, like, the point that I have? Isn't that great, you know? And even if it is, I'm sorry to interrupt. I think even even if you think it's worth it, I think there's also that little voice in your head saying, Okay, now I'm gonna go no, no, now it's the right time. Oh, no, no, that wasn't the right time. By the time you almost get your act together, to speak up, it's too late. Yeah, and so we have a few kind of tips here. And I think one of the things that's really helped a lot of our students has been having a strategy or having some tools, right. So we have tools that you can use from a tech side. And then we also have strategies, you know, communication strategies. So let's just really quickly start with the tech tools, one of them is just raising, you know, the little hand, if you're on a Zoom call, you can just raise a little hand. And that's one of those things that I don't think a lot of people use, but it is actually pretty effective. I agree, I feel being the first one to use, it feels a bit awkward and odd. But it's those that once the first person does it, it's like yeah, that's that's I mean, that's why why it's there anyway. It's very civilized. And what else what's, what's another thing that you should do? Very obvious one, but remember to unmute yourself, for obvious reasons, but also because it will, not doing so might damage your confidence, having to repeat yourself, you know, so just remember to really unmute yourself. And it's also especially in meetings where there, there aren't many people, it's a way of replacing that eye contact that we usually use in person to tell the other person that we want to talk. So it can be helpful in both ways. Yeah, yeah. And then good. And then the last one is, yeah, if you do really want to interrupt, and maybe it's in a large group, so you don't feel very confident about doing it, but you know, the person that's talking, you can send them a direct message and just say, hey, you know, can you, you know, set the stage for me to jump in here really quickly on something, or, or, Hey, you know, do you mind if I, if I make a point on that, and, and if someone gets a direct message on that, a lot of times they'll look at that and say, okay, and then they'll bridge that into inviting you to make your point. One point here is be very careful that you're sending a direct message and not a message to everyone because it could look like you're just you know, passively aggressive. You no writing in the chat, like I would like to make a point please, you know, be careful there. And so when we jump if we have these tech tools that we can use, right but but if we need to jump into the conversation, if we if we want to interrupt, how do we do that? So I think one very important thing to remember and we always talk about this is the cultural aspect of things and we're going to provide some also some some specific tools when you do decide to interrupt but I think in in some cultures like I think in the Mediterranean, and that happens here in Spain sometimes and I know in Israel as well in Italy, people time tend to interrupt each other much more and that is not considered rude as part of the conversation. But in other cultures, perhaps in Germany and in Japan, people won't interrupt. So that's something to also be mindful of. And we have, you know what we'll talk about culture more in depth in, in a different episode. But so you do decide that you want to interrupt. And so how do you jump on the conversation? Do we have any specific phrases for that? Yeah, I think you, you even just almost said it right there to jump on the conversation. I think we think about interrupting sometimes as you know, halting the conversation or something like that, but a good way to kind of go around it is to yet literally jump on and add on something here. And you can use a phrase like, hey, Paola, can I just add on something to your point there? And that's, you know, not saying, I'm interrupting you, because your point is bad. And I, and my point is more important. It's saying, Hey, can I just add something to your point? And, you know, we use that, like, you know, I would like you can make it more polite. Or if you really know the person, I just want to add something to that, you know, I just want to add something to that. Or I always go for, Hey, can I just add something? So adding is really good, a good way to interrupt. And then as well, you know, we want to summarize and add something to it, right? So summarize their idea and add something to that. And what's the what's the purpose of that? So here, it's it's a bit similar to what you were saying before, you're not saying that what the other person said is wrong, you're actually showing that you listen to them, and that you understand what they're saying. Especially the part where you summarize, and then what you're doing is adding on to it, instead of saying, that's a good point BUT, you can say, oh, yeah, I hear what you're say ing AND this is another idea that could go well with it. Right. Right. And that way, you're you're adding to the flow of the conversation. You're not Yeah, putting that halt in, right. And then, and then the last one, right, is, is involving another person. And I think this is really helpful in virtual meetings, especially in meetings where there are those that that don't, you know, speak up that, you know, feel very awkward jumping in, and you can take the initiative and involve another person. How do you do that? So with that, you can do it in different ways. But the most effective one is using the other person's name. And here, you can either use the person that was just talking, or you can also bring in someone in the meeting that you have a close relationship with. So if you have a colleague that it's almost like a friend colleague can tell, yeah, and I totally agree with what Anna was saying. And and would add to it, as long as it's related to the topic, right. So one way to go about it again, going back to the beginning, it could be to okay, you're interrupting the person that speaking you could say something like, yeah, I totally agree with that, or I completely agree with that. And I definitely think that's the direction we should be heading. And then you can introduce a question something like, oh, I would really be curious to know what this person has to say about it. Or I would be interested to hear what Susie thinks. So that could be one way, you know, to involve a third person that was not talking. Right. And that's a great strategy. Because I think very rarely would everybody just say, No, we don't care what Susie thinks let's just move forward. You know, that's not gonna happen. Yeah, exactly. So Susie will get her chance to, to speak then. Okay, so interrupting, is that different in virtual meetings, as opposed to in person meetings? What do you think about that? I think it's very different. So there's the phrases that we just mentioned, that we'll add to the blog will also work for in person meetings, but there's a few aspects that are very different. So when you're interrupting in person, you can make eye contact, you can take a deep breath, for example, like, and that almost shows that you're about to talk and the other person will almost yield and let you let you speak. But that doesn't happen in virtual meetings where most of us are on mute all the time. So here we will have to use the the raise hand option or the using the name of the other person, that's almost how we replaced the making eye contact. So there are a few. Yeah, I think I don't know if you agree. No, I agree as well. I agree as well. And it is something about the whole body language aspect. You really kind of have to go above and beyond to use body language in a video call. I did a project on this. It's an it's called computer mediated communication. Okay, so that That's the big science word for today. But a lot of times because most of the time the screen is at your chest level, you know, there's so much that's happening, that people aren't seeing when it comes to body language. And so you know, you can you can try but it like you said, it is very different. So, we've talked about interrupting. But this is one that I think, is very challenging as well, asking people to repeat things if you if you're not sure if you don't understand. I've heard that a lot. I don't know about you. But a lot of my students have talked about that. I think this is one of the main ones because you know, the first challenge we talked about is joining an empty virtual room. Interrupting Yes, a lot of people do have concerns about it. But no one really no one wants to feel silly by asking people to repeat. So I think this one is one that is the most popular one for sure. Yeah, there's there's that kind of, it's like, You're damned if you do damned if you don't a little bit because you're you're kind of like, either I sound like I'm not paying attention, or I sound rude. And I'm, you know, trying to make this person feel like they, you know, they don't know what they're talking about. Right. But there are ways, there are ways that you can do this, what are a few of the tools that we can use? To ask for Yeah, you know, someone to repeat something. So the first thing is to build the courage to actually ask for clarification, we'll give some phrases in a moment. So that I think that will be the first one everyone, really. So accept that we sometimes don't understand each other, even if we are native English speakers. And and, you know, once you accept that it's okay to just say things like, I'm sorry, can you say that again? Or can you expand a little bit on that point? Or? Oh, that sounds interesting, but I'm not quite sure what you meant by... and then you specify exactly what you said. But I guess some people do feel a bit too anxious about asking people to, to repeat things. So what do we do then? Yeah, I mean, there's a few different tools, you know, you can send a personal message, you know, we talked about that before as well. Just a quick message, if you don't want to make it a big thing, send a quick message, and especially if the if the meetings kind of going past the topic, send a message to that person that was presenting, and just say, Hey, can you send me this information afterwards? Or can I get five minutes to discuss this with you after the meeting? You know, so there's a lot of those where you can get that clarification from that person just at a later time, it doesn't necessarily need to be now and it doesn't need to be in front of everybody. As well, you know, you can you can use and this is what we'll talk about is different phrases, if you need clarification at the time, and it's very important. There's a few different things that you can you can do. So, we have a lot of these different phrases, a lot of them that you've put together, can you can you tell us a few of these? Yeah, so one of them could be to be honest, and tell them, Listen, I just want to make sure I fully understand. So what you're saying is, and hear you try to almost summarize or explain things in your own words. And that really shows that you were trying your best to understand and and that way, they can also identify the specific points that you perhaps didn't get 100% ight. Or things like another phrase could be. So you're saying that, da da da da? Is that correct? Or have I understood that correctly? Basically, the idea or the concept in a nutshell, is this right? So those are a few phrases where you try to really summarize what they were or what you understood. And then they can take it from there. Yeah. And you know, this is, it's so funny, because, you know, we're at least us two, we're familiar with Simon Sinek. And, you know, he has all these books, and he does this, all this consulting, and I saw this video where he was talking about he was in this meeting with all these really hot shot, you know, executives and board members. And there's some top of the line consultant explaining something at the board. And he looks around and everybody's you know, nodding along and saying, yeah, yeah, that sounds great. And he was the only person that had no idea what was going on. And so he just said, Hey, I'm sorry, but I don't fully understand this. And then one by one, each of the, you know, executives around the table say yeah, I don't understand it either. Can you explain it though? You know, that's just a I think a great little story that To show that, you know, you're not always the dumbest person in the room. And most often, you know, there's someone else that probably feels the same. And will appreciate your question as well. Yeah, exactly. Great. So one way is one challenge. Sorry, is when you when we don't understand the other person, we feel too anxious about asking them. But the other fear that we tend to have is about being misunderstood. Like, I'm not, I'm not explaining things clearly enough, or my accent is not good enough. So what can we do there? At again, you know, another big one that we hear all the time is how do I communicate effectively, which, you know, just to drop that in? We're going to have a very exciting webinar very soon about that. But yes, we do. We do hear that a lot. And there's a lot of things about this, you know, I've done some coaching with some of our students were a big part of it is, you know, accepting that, hey, you know, it's not going to be whatever perfect is, in my mind, you know, the most amazing speech ever, it's not always going to be that and that's okay. We're all misunderstood sometimes. And there's no perfect communication, right? Skill. So, you know, learning to paraphrase is a big one, I think preparing your points, we talk about this a lot, having specific points, one, two points that you want to make. And add on to that the in the preparation stage, if you know that you're going to talk about a topic and you're not very confident explaining it, try to practice it at home. Yeah, write down a few sentences, just like the the main points that you would like to get across and practice it out loud. That really helps. Right? Right. And, and, you know, a big part of it is, is make it simple. You don't need to use a lot of very elaborate language, you know, and big business terminology. You know, you've really, at the end of the day, it's about communicating effectively. And as long as you can get the point across. That's the big one. And that, yeah, that comes to our last point, which is how do we keep meetings on track and make them actionable? Right, so one of the things we talked about with being understood is having a few bullet points. But a lot of that comes to how do we make things happen? How do we how do we make the meeting actually worth it by having action points? The worst is, I'm sure you'd agree is going into a meeting and getting nothing out of it, right? That's not fun. I know. No, no, no, no, it's it's really bad. And yeah, if you've been around, I guess, you know, you've been in those meetings, keeping it on track, especially if you're the one leading the meeting is critical. And how do we do that? Yeah, I and I totally agree with you, especially if you're leading the meeting. But I think you can also be proactive, even if you're just one of the regular participants. And if you feel like the meeting is coming to an end, and you have that feeling of I really don't know what what what's happening now, feel free to use some of these phrases to really clarify what the next steps or action points are. And so one of the phrases could be Alright, great. So what are the next steps? That's a great one I use all the time. Yeah. I saw you right now. Yeah, that's, that's, that's a Paola quote, right there. Something else could be. So we've decided to... and then you can summarize what everyone has decided to do. Or perhaps you can involve someone else and say, So Anna, could you take the lead on that? And here's like, Would you be responsible for that? Or for example, Yes, we need to put the the episode together. Simon, would you could you take the lead on that? Right? And if Yep, sorry! No, just to add on to that, you know, these these ones are all so effective, not only for making action points, but also for if the, if the meeting is kind of veering off track, and we need to kind of bring it back. It's like, okay, so can we agree on those next steps that we talked about today? But then can we hold off on this other point for you know, another meeting and really give that topic the the time that it deserves? And there you're you're even then putting in action points for another meeting about some topic that won't clutter the meeting that you have today? Right? Exactly like not be scared of saying, listen, that's not the topic for today with the nice words that you just mentioned. But it's a nice way of saying let's give this topic the the attention that it deserves. And then if you need to penciled in another meeting thing you can do that with a phrase like, let's pencil in another meeting for next Tuesday to go over that topic. Yeah. To pencil in is to arrange to arrange something, Right? Yeah to pencil it in, or Let's book something for next week or something like that. That's always what I use now that we're just booking meetings, virtual meetings all day now. So great, great, great. Great. So we have a lot of good points today. What what did we, what did we go over today, Paola. So we started with that anxiety that we sometimes get when we are about to join an empty virtual room. And what we said is, don't be scared to join in, it will actually pay off throughout the meeting, and learn how to engage in small talk. So that was one. We also talked about interrupting and how to do it. And there are cultural differences that we should always consider. But the raise your tech hand is is a helpful tool. And then we also gave a lot of phrases that we'll add to the blog where people can just download it. What else we talked about feeling anxious about asking people to repeat things, what do we do there? Yeah, so So with that, again, there are tools sending direct messages, hey, can you send me this information after? Or hey, can I grab five minutes with you after this meeting? But then also, yeah, throwing in phrases and just saying, Listen, I just want to make sure I fully understood right. Or, in other words, what you're saying, is this, this and this, is that correct? Right. So So rephrasing and, and being okay with that. Maybe you're not the only person that didn't didn't understand. Very true. Great. So the next point we talked about was being misunderstood. And hear there's something we didn't mention, but sometimes it's not your fault, the fact that they didn't understand sometimes there is noise, and there are technical difficulties. So don't be scared of repeating the same message exactly how you said it, perhaps it was perfectly right. Try to rephrase it, you know, paraphrase said, say it with different words, and prepare a little bit in advance if you know, it's going to be a hard topic for you then just prepare some phrases or sentences that will help you. And then to keep it on track. Always make sure that you use some of these phrases to either bring the conversation back to the main topic, or also to make sure that the meeting has some action items that everyone, you know that everyone has homework to do afterwards. Right, exactly. You know, what do we do now? Right, what are we walking away with? And I think that should be a question that everybody is very clear on if at the end of the meeting, and and if you have something that needs another discussion, you can pencil it in for another time. So what what are the next steps, Simon? There we go action items. All right, next steps is if you are listening, subscribe, write a comment, write into us. Tell us what do you want to hear? What do you want to learn about? As well sign up for our upcoming webinar. It's going to be on effective communication. And we'll be bringing up a lot of these points. But also there's there's so many more. I don't know how we're gonna get through everything for that one, but there's gonna be so much so much good stuff. But then besides that, what else we have some upcoming guests. Right, follow? Yeah, so we started having some great, great guests last year. Those were some of my favorite episodes. But we're, that's something we're keep doing. We're going to keep doing. And I think that's going to be amazing. I couldn't be more excited about that. I know, I'm so excited about these upcoming guests. So yeah, so hit subscribe, hit like, wherever you are, we hope that you enjoy the episode. It's great to be back for 2022. And this year is going to have so much exciting content and stuff that we're going to be doing. But that is it for us today. And as always, wherever you are, keep learning. And that's all we have for you today. We hope you enjoyed it. And remember to subscribe to telera talks. We'll be back soon with more and visit our website@telera.com for more valuable content on business English. You can also request a free consultation on the best ways for you and your team to improve your communication skills. So have a great day and keep learning