Overcome language issues
How can you as a team member overcome language issues?
During a conference call or video conference, you can help other understand you:
- Speak slowly.
- Use simpler words and sentences (for example, avoid the passive voice which is more complex).
- Avoid jargon.
- Avoid references to local pop culture (for example, referring to local television characters).
- Avoid references to sports that others may not be familiar with (for example, “We need to hit this one out of the ballpark.”).
- Define initialisms and acronyms. Don’t assume everyone knows that they mean.
- Provide information in writing.
Deal with accents
Where accents are an issue, how can you ensure clear communication?
- Acknowledge everyone’s accent and issues the team might face up front.
- Establish an environment where it is safe to ask for clarification when you do not understand what someone has said.
- Try to reduce your strong accent if you have one, and tune you ear to other’s accents.
- Provide detailed information in writing.
Make yourself heard
Make yourself heard when you attend a conference call:
- Mute your phone or microphone when you are not speaking.
- Attend from a quiet room. Those set up for conference calls are soundproof and reduce echo.
- Use a headset.
- Avoid speakerphones (they sometimes echo, pick up every noise, or don’t pick up voices clearly)
- Avoid mobile phones that may experience “drops” in your conversation.
Watch, listen, and learn
Learn about your colleague’s cultures and actively watch and listen for their cultural cues.
Adapt your approach when necessary.
Allow time for silence—some cultures use silence to reflect, others must fill the silence.
Verify understanding, both verbally and in writing, at the end of the meetings and conversations.
Keep your background clutter free
What do your colleagues see in the background when they hold a video conference with you?
No one wants to see your cluttered bookshelf, unmade bed, or dirty laundry in the background.
For video conferences, choose a well-lighted location with a simple background. Consider using a portable video conferencing screen.
Avoid bright windows or lights in the background. They can cause your face to be too dark.
Look at the camera
Do other see you looking off to the side during a video conference?
Establish rapport with your colleagues by sitting up straight and looking directly in the camera during a video conference. Add a smiley sticker next to it as a reminder.
Position your computer screen and camera at eye level, and place you colleague's video window (or meeting notes) directly under the camera. That way, you maintain eye contact throughout the conference.
When using a notebook computer or tablet, be careful not to point it upward at your face. We don’t want to look up your nose, or see your distracting ceiling fan.