With many of us now holding our business meetings online, clear communication is more important than ever. All too often, technical glitches, poor sound quality and general zoom fatigue add to the strain of effective communication.
For people whose first language isn’t English, there are added challenges.
So, if English is your first language, how can you better support your international colleagues and clients and facilitate more effective online discussions?
Language experts and authors of Is that clear? Effective communication in a multilingual world, Kathryn Alevizos and Zanne Gaynor, offer their ten tips to help you become a more inclusive communicator online:
1 – Adapt the pace of your own language and add pauses between ideas. Bite-size chunks of information are easier to process for somebody working in a second language.
2 – Avoid figurative language such as idioms (It’s all up in the air, the bottom line etc).
3 – Limit small talk and ice-breaking jokes – linguistically these are challenging areas of language.
4 – Send the topic or agenda for a video conference call in advance – this helps the non-native speaker prepare and become familiar with any new language.
5 – Make sure your discussion is signposted – this means making it clear when you change topic e.g. Ok, let’s finish with item 1 and talk about item 2 now.
6 – Agree in advance how to interrupt or stop a conversation – using the comment box allows participants to ‘virtually’ raise a hand or comment if something is unclear.
7 – Offer opportunities for clarification and to check if participants are following or if anyone has questions. Allowing time for participants to discuss in their own language can be useful.
8 – Keep calls short or include breaks – talking online can be extremely tiring in a second language!
9 – Invite quieter participants to contribute – their silence may be language related, not due to a lack of opinion or ideas.
10 – Consider following up calls with an email summarising main points – this will also highlight any miscommunication which may have gone undetected during the call.