Quick Tips for Empathy in Online Meetings & Presentations
We want to give you some quick tips for empathy and online meetings and presentations. So we want this to be.. These are lovely things ... I know when I'm doing these, I don't know about you, I really enjoy doing these exercises and I feel so good after we do them, I feel so good while we're doing them. I feel like I learn every single time we do one of these workshops that include empathy. So we want to also make sure that it's practical, something that you can use immediately. So we want to talk a little bit about online meetings and some of the things that we've done at Speechless specifically, because we have a lot of online meetings. Our team is spread out and we're often traveling doing other jobs. So we often do a lot of online meetings and have had to ourselves reflect on what are some best practices that we can implement that allow us to be in meetings, to have empathy with each other and really be present. So we want to talk about those with you. One of my favorites is our he...
art emoji. We tend to when we're doing a meeting, everyone is on mute except for the person speaking. If Sammy says something in the meeting that I really love or that lights me up or that I feel excited about, we actually make a little heart emoji and we do this on the screen. We're actually doing this to the person so that they can see on the screen that we love that idea. And it's so fun when you share an idea and suddenly three people are doing this back at you. It feels really good. We don't have to stop and interrupt to say I love that idea and have that talk over
Another one that's real simple. Jarod gave it to me. These are pretty self-explanatory.
Thumbs up. You know when you are basically ratifying somebody's idea. A lot of these are things we already naturally do or they are a physical analog take on something that one of your social media platforms does for you, but it just feels more personable if you make the little heart instead of the technology making the heart. But basically you're saying, "yep, I got it." or "that's a great idea" and moving on instead of I'm going to unmute myself and then 16 people go, (mumbling) you know.
It doesn't really serve much of a purpose A big thing in improv and this is where a lot of these comes from is that show everything you can, tell the rest. Show, don't tell is really important in virtual communication.
Eye contact is incredibly important. We have to remember that when we're looking when we're doing a meeting online that we see the person's face on our screen. That the camera is actually usually above that. So one of the things that we can do, especially someone is sharing something is to really look at where the camera is, not just look at where their face is on the screen, cuz it allows them to feel more connected with us and allows them to see that we're giving them eye contact and giving them our attention, especially in moments that might be challenging or might be really important points that the person is making. We want to make it really clear that we're with them and we see them.
Another really self-explanatory one is just raising your hand when you have a question or new idea. We've been doing it since we were kids in school, but as adults we have a lot of great ideas and lot of probing questions. Sometimes we just blurt things out and you need to respect the other person speaking. Especially when there might be some sort of delay based on the wifi connection or someone doesn't know that they're on mute, or whatever. Start to respectfully say with your body and your body language, "I would like to join "and I would like to speak right now" instead of just talking over someone. Cuz we've all be in that meeting where someone asked that question over someone talking and the person talking said, "Did someone ask something?" and that person asked it again and I'm already feeling it right now. So, you can make things more efficient and you can keep your blood pressure down by just coming up with your own virtual vocabulary, as I like to call it.
One of the other things we do is that if someone raises their hand, sometimes if I raise my hand in a meeting, as soon as we put it close to the camera, somebody might think that means I want to interrupt and so one of the things we sometimes do is this which means, "no I have a question "but keep going." So rather than me stopping and saying, "No keep going," it's just like, "No, I have a question, I just want to put out there that I need to speak next but you keep going with the point you're making."
This means, still third.
Alright. The final thing is time boxing thing which can be done verbally or non-verbally. Again, one thing that we do a lot of times when we're asking for feedback about an idea is we'll say, "we just want x number of seconds from everyone and we'll have someone who is the timekeeper," or we'll just go, "how much time do I have to give feedback on this idea," and you can do it with your hand in terms of number of minutes or whatever. We said it earlier, I think it's up there, stating boundaries. That's a big thing in virtual communication is like, letting everybody know what the expectations and the boundaries are around time because you may have a multitude of people in the same video conference or conference calls which are even harder because you may have twenty people and no one can see each other. You need to be able to let everybody know, "Hey everyone gets 15 seconds to chime in on this. "I'm going to keep time." and then maybe that little ding goes off and everyone knows. Either way, really let everybody know they have an equal amount of time to participate and make it a little more democratic than that loudest in the room talks for 20 seconds and everyone else talks for two.
The advantage of also setting these norms is that when you have a time box like that, it allows us to distill our ideas down very specifically. So, rather than me thinking out loud, for example, with a time box, I'm going to think about my idea and distill it down to 30 seconds so I get to the meat of what it is I want to say. We really encourage you to discuss these ideas within your organizations to make sure you've established those and they're clear, cuz as Sammy said, I have to know what the expectations are in order to meet them. If they're mysterious or they're changing, I can't meet those expectations but it's a really healthy conversation to have as a group and we encourage you to share other ones with us as you come up with them.
Yeah, these are just the ones that work for us. Come up with your own. Some of them are again, really stupidly simple and self-explanatory but we do them because they work. But yes, everyone must be in agreement in order for them to work. So you can't get on a vid-com and just be like this and think everybody knows what that means.
Great. Let's talk a little bit about how to apply some of this to be an inclusive speaker.
Yeah, Will you kick it off for us?
When you are actually on stage, being inclusive may seem like a foreign concept or more abstract because it's kind of a one demanding communication channel. But there's a lot of things that you can do as someone presenting. Whether you are standing up or sitting at a table, to be more inclusive. The first one is just to notice the body language of the audience. It's very simple. Sometimes it can't be done if you are at a big conference and you can't see past the first row. But if you're in a meeting or you're in a setting kind of like we are today, you can see everyone pretty well. Just take note of what everyone is doing and feeling and how they're moving and making eye contact. Also don't misinterpret. Just because someone is doing something that you interpret as positive or negative, there's no need to call that out. There's no need to feel any differently. But you'll get better. Especially if it's people that you work with, you'll realize what that means. You'll realize everyone's physical, non-verbal cues and then you'll be able to recognize those a lot quicker and not internalize them as something that you're doing wrong or need to change.
One of the things we talk a lot about is how to talk to the middle. This is a great way to be inclusive. To know who the audience is that you're speaking to, and we go into more detail on this in one of our other classes, but really thinking if I'm talking to experts, that's the group I'm talking to, but very often, we're talking to people who don't know as much as we do. As Sammy mentioned in one of our other courses, we're usually the experts in the room, that's why we're presenting. So thinking about how to give a little nugget to the people who are beginner level of whatever it is we're talking about. New intro, so we're giving them a little bit of information. We're also giving a little bit of information to the people who are perhaps at our level, like maybe also expert. But that most of our talk is really thinking about the middle ground, so the people that may not know as much as us and really giving them that information. That's what we've found very effective to think about - a little nugget for the beginners and extra sort of something, icing for the experts and then the bulk of the talk is to the middle ground.
We mentioned this already a lot today in this class, so I won't go into any more detail, but yeah, just let us know what to expect. Setting those expectations and boundaries and that can be done in so many different ways from what type of information you want people to give in terms of feedback or how long you want them to speak.
We talked about this also in one of our other courses, just a little bit. Adapting to new and different audiences. So, if I'm giving a talk, I shouldn't necessarily be giving the same talk every time to every group of people. I need to think about what's going to keep it interesting for me, but also who are these people and how can I connect with them. That will help to build some equilibrium with myself and my audience.
Let your visual aids be your sidekick and not the star of the show and that can allow people to focus more on you and in turn, you will make a more inclusive experience because even though it feels like it's a monologue, it is a dialogue, it is a conversation. Even if people are quietly sitting and listening to you for the majority of it.
Sammy mentioned this a little bit in the audience noticing the body language, but making eye contact- we're fortunate that we can see all of you, but often you're in a space where maybe the lights or for whatever reason, you can't see people, but you can certainly know where faces are and where heads are and it can feel really inclusive just to look around and acknowledge that there are other people than maybe the first couple of people in the first rows. Certainly, you shouldn't be turning and reading your slides, or looking at the document in front of you. You really want the people in the room to know that you're there with them and for them.
We talk more about this in our stage presence class, but stage movement is really important. Where you are on the stage. If it's a stage at all. It might just be you're at a table in a meeting room, but simple things like actually having your body language up and open. It really is tempting for me to stand behind this because I could lean on it, I could sit here. But I probably feel and look a little more welcoming, both of us, where we are right now so therefore, that's where we are. If we were up here, there would be this barrier between us and even though it's simple, and even though it probably doesn't change the way we talk to you, there's something there. There's some kind of intangible distance and barrier between us. So try to take those barriers away. If you're someone that really loves being behind a podium, just take an opportunity in your next presentation to just step out. We do that all the time with our clients. We say, just for one big statement or message, just step out. It's very powerful. Ultimately those people who needed to be tethered to the podium, don't want to get back. Because it just feels better to be seen and acknowledged and know that you have that much power. So if you are someone like that, just try it. Just baby steps. One sentence. One minute. One talk. Just keep making it a little bit more risky for yourself in a good way.
That is actually the end of our Become and Inclusive Presenter class so we want to get into some tangible takeaways. These are the things that we said we would cover and we want to come to you to check in and see what are those things that are sticking with you. Maybe that you want to continue to work on or that are resonating with you. What are those big takeaways for you here in the audience.
I would say that I naturally struggle with being empathetic. Not a machine. So just these specific things to say, I feel it but I don't know how to vocalize that I'm with that person. These notes are really good takeaways that I will definitely use.
I'm so glad to hear that.
There's absolutely no shame in having a cheat sheet with things like this because we all feel very differently about how we communicate with people. This has become very helpful for me. We do this every time we do this class. Every time, it's different. So this is yours. This is your version.
For me, also similar, but the think and feel part of that is maybe I go into that before having to be ready to think about how to create the space for that person and switch modes from my normal fixing mode.
So are you saying you should front load a little bit of this for yourself before you even sit with a person.
Yes, before I should review that before I go in.
That's a great point.
What else? What else is coming up for you? Yes, Jarrod.
In all of this, it makes me want to take it and flip it and be the audience and think about my content as a speaker and say, where are all the little points of vulnerability, emotions, and let the audience hear my emotions- know what I'm going through, know the content because then they will connect more with me. All of this, in creating my content coming up, I'm just going to flip it.
It's super helpful for me cuz I know I want the audience to imagine me as a certain thing and have a picture of me, but I also want them to get to know me, and I want them to take away my message with them. This is super helpful.
Thank you so much.
Give yourselves a round of applause.
Yeah, thank you.
Being a great public speaker isn’t just about knowing how to talk, it’s also about knowing how to listen. It’s about being inclusive, which we define as creating an environment where everyone is equally respected and valued. And it’s about being empathetic, which is essential to creating a genuine feeling of inclusion.
In this course, we’ll explore simple yet effective ways you can build equilibrium in a room and on your team, become a better listener, and demonstrate empathy. By using best practices from improvisational techniques, you’ll be able to connect more fully to colleagues, customers and others in your life. In a world where disengagement is reinforced by our smartphones and the internet, it’s more important than ever to find ways to re-engage.
In this class, you’ll learn how to:
- Demonstrate active listening and empathy through eye contact, facial expressions and body language.
- Conduct more inclusive online meetings.
- Actively listen to hear rather than simply listening to respond.
- Be present in the moment rather than jumping ahead or going internal and missing the opportunity to connect more fully with others.
- Use your voice to amplify other voices (for extroverts) or find space/take agency to speak up (for introverts).
- Adapt to your audience.
- Share the floor.