Video calling has now become a key part of day-to-day business life. Although there are similarities to conducting conference calls and face-to-face meetings in English, video calling has its own cultural and linguistic nuances.
Here are 5 practical tips for making the right impression and getting the right outcome on English-language video calls.
Tip 1: Be on time, having tested the technology
People expect video calls to start promptly – there’s generally less flexibility about arriving late. If you’re delayed (even by a couple of minutes), let the call leader know as soon as possible. Also:
- Make sure you’ve downloaded the correct software well in advance – with so many tools in use, it’s easy to be caught out. Don’t risk having to download and launch a new program with a minute to go before the scheduled start
- Test your camera and microphone – most tools let you do this before joining the call. Make sure your background is appropriate and your audio is loud enough. Some built-in computer microphones make it sound like you’re far away, in which case it’s best to use headphones so people focus on what you’re saying, not on tech-related distractions
- Have your presentation/screenshare ready – if you’re sharing a presentation, make sure it’s loaded at the right place and that notes are hidden
Tip 2: Keep the camera on at all times – and mute yourself when you’re not talking
All call participants should have their cameras on during the call. The benefits far outweigh any worries about showing your surroundings. This is because:
- Gestures and facial expressions make it easier to communicate – you can get your point across more effectively, plus seeing others makes it easier to interpret what they’re saying
- Culturally, video conferencing adoption is high in English-speaking countries – so having your camera on helps you align with native-speaker participants
- Eye contact makes you more compelling – when you’re speaking, remember to look at the camera rather than at yourself or other participant images on the screen
- Muting prevents distracting background noise – so it’s easier for everyone to hear the speaker. Plus, it forces people to focus on what they’re going to say because there’s a pause from unmuting before speaking
Tip 3: Have an agenda and keep it on track
Video calls in English involve less small talk than in-person meetings. If a call is scheduled for one hour, it should stick to one hour. This means the discussion needs to stay focused.
To achieve this:
- Have a designated call leader to manage the agenda
- Make sure everyone is clear on the call’s objectives
- Have a designated participant keeping official minutes to circulate afterward
- Avoid long explanations
- If other points come up, agree to discuss them on another call rather than diverting the current discussion
- Keep an eye on the clock to ensure the discussion proceeds in line with the agreed timings
- Wrap up the call with a clear conclusion, in line with the agreed objectives – ideally, setting a new meeting shouldn’t be the conclusion
Tip 4: Don’t multi-task during the video call
It’s tempting to multi-task because people can’t actually see you checking your emails or reading a document. But people can tell when you’re distracted in this way – your altered eye contact and attention come through on the video.
Because English video calls are generally structured and to the point, you make a better impression and are more effective if you force yourself to stay focused.
Also, make sure noisy apps (like mail programs that make a ‘new message’ ping) are closed so your microphone doesn’t broadcast the sounds. If you’re sharing your screen, ensure pop-up notifications are turned off so participants don’t see email or message alerts coming through.
Tip 5: Don’t worry about grammar when speaking
Content and efficiency are more important than grammar on video calls, so don’t agonize about conjugations or modal phrases.
- Prepare in English beforehand – you should know the agenda in advance, so preparing a few notes ensures you’re confident and ready to speak
- Have a bank of key phrases to get clarification and prompt discussion – for example:
- I'd like to start by…
- Could you rephrase that, please?
- Could you give me another example?
- Do you mean X?
- I understand you want X?
- Time is tight, so let's move on
- Let's go back to the agenda
- During the call, take notes in English – that way, you don’t waste time translating and then re-translating to respond to what others are saying
Practice builds confidence and effectiveness on video calls
Our business English digital training courses help you hone your video call skills. With our cutting-edge e-learning platform and mother-tongue trainers, you become more effective and make a better impression when speaking to international colleagues and clients.
Learn more about our digital English courses for business and finance professionals.