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Seven ‘Public Speaking’ Tips for Videoconferencing During the COVID-19 Crisis

How to appear confident and be persuasive in remote meetings.

By Marsha Hunter

Video Conferencing Tips: Honing your skills for distance meetings is crucial when big decisions are being made without in-the-room-together interactions.

In just a few weeks, many of us have joined the #WFH set, creating workspaces at our dining room tables and downloading new teleconferencing apps so that we can work from home. We’re all doing our best to adjust to this upheaval of our work lives. We are seeking guidance on best practices and tips for maintaining productivity while juggling homeschooling, deep cleaning, and needy pets who are thrilled that we’re suddenly around all the time.

In this new landscape of social distancing and virtual work, the idea of “public speaking” may seem irrelevant. (What qualifies as public?) But good techniques for public speaking are just as applicable when joining an online meeting. In fact, honing your skills for distance meetings is crucial at a time when so many important decisions are being made without face-to-face, in-the-room-together interactions.

Video Conferencing Tips and Public Speaking Techniques

Here are some tips for confident and persuasive speech, tailored for videoconferencing.

  1. Sit up in your chair. Avoid slouching or leaning on the table in front of you. Whether your colleagues can see you or not, pay attention to your posture. It is easier to breathe when you sit up straight. Breathing calms your nerves and helps you think better. You look and feel more alert. (This is a bonus of online meetings: You can check your posture and appearance to make certain you are in the frame, you look confident, and even if you like your hair.)
  2. When it is your turn to talk, make “eye contact.” Be sure you are looking into your camera while speaking to address everyone directly.
  3. Speak loudly enough to sound confident. Don’t trail off at the ends of sentences. Depending on everyone else’s audio, others may have trouble hearing you. Look away from the camera briefly to survey your colleagues’ responses. Can they hear and understand you?
  4. Gesture as you normally do. Your hands help you think and speak more clearly. Make sure your screen/camera is far enough away that your gestures can be seen. It is OK to be passionate and emphatic!
  5. Mute yourself when you are not speaking, especially during a conference with many participants. This eliminates extraneous noise. Before you begin the call, make sure you know where the “unmute” function is, so you can go right to it when you are ready to take the floor.
  6. If it is challenging to get a turn to speak, use gesture to gain the floor. Put your hand up as you begin to talk so people can see that you have something to say.
  7. As often as possible, make the choice to appear on screen. Resist the impulse to join a call only by audio. It may take a few minutes to make yourself presentable, but that’s OK. Step up and be a part of our visual world. We need one another.

Illustration ©

More Great Tips on Polishing Your Presentation Skills (Online and Off)

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Categories: Communicating, Communications Skills, COVID-19, You At Work
Originally published April 15, 2020
Last updated September 18, 2020
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Marsha Hunter 2020 Marsha Hunter

For more than 30 years, Marsha Hunter was the CEO and a founder of Johnson and Hunter, Inc., with legal clients in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Europe. Her clients were top ten and top twenty law firms, legal departments at the world’s largest corporations, the United States Department of Justice, and organizations and bar associations from Belfast to Tasmania. Marsha is co-author of “The Articulate Advocate” and “The Articulate Attorney,” her specialty is human factors — the science of human performance in high-stakes environments. Born in Montana and raised in the American West, she lives in New Mexico.

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