How to be heard and understood when you speak using technology


As a non-native speaker of American English, do you find it more challenging to communicate by phone and over the net than in person? Many people do. Here are some tips to help you be heard and understood when you speak using technology.


Non-native speakers often tell us in coaching sessions that they need to learn to “slow down” or that people tell them to speak slowly because they are rushing. While that advice is often well meaning, it’s not always helpful. Trying to speak very slowly may sound strange to your audience or cause them to interrupt you. Instead, focus on your breathing. If you are exhaling when you speak, your voice will carry better and you will sound clearer.


Instead of embellishing with lots of examples, pick only one: the best one, and then rephrase your comment. Listeners need more repetition on the phone and on the net than they do in person. Repeating word-for-word will bore people or cause them to lose interest, but rephrasing an idea in another way is helpful. For example, you might suggest that your team have a virtual party to celebrate the completion of a project. If others speak and the meeting continues, later on you might again mention that “it would be a great idea to reward ourselves with a recognition event to let everyone know they’re valued and share our insights and experience post-mortem.” Notice the second time, you are using different words, but the idea is the same: have a party.


Clients often tell us there are some words / sound combinations that are almost impossible to say clearly. Rather than letting this erode your confidence, you can either find another word, or just consciously “slow down” on it. This is one place where being “slower” helps, but only on these challenge words; then resume your normal pacing. Anticipate the word, slow on and emphasize it, and then move on at a faster pace.



Putting your words in context involves “Setting the Stage” before you add your point. You might say, “Last year we neglected to do X, and as a result Y happened. To insure Y is the outcome this year, I suggest we do X this time” instead of “Let’s do X.”

Interpreting your words is suggesting the meaning behind what you are sharing, including your intentions or reasons or desired outcome. For example, you could say, “I’d be happy to review anyone’s work who is interested during this phase, not because I’m an expert, but because I think there’s a great likelihood we could make mistakes with the new conventions we’ve added and the tighter turnaround; I’d also like to ask some of you to review my work, and I’d feel more comfortable doing that if it was an exchange” instead of saying, “I’ll review your work if you want” (which could imply you don’t think your audience is capable of doing error-free work).


Instead of “Let’s do X …”, try, “What we could do to avoid the repetitiveness of X is …” or “Rather than to do Y again, and risk the bottleneck we experienced last time, we could try X.” Other great “lead-ins” include: “Where we go from here is …” “What we could do for the next round is …” “How to avoid this issue with a workaround could be …” “Another way that might work is if we …” “Other methods I can think of are …”

Would working with a Speech Coach help? We offer Zoom coaching to help you navigate the challenges with confidence.