I don’t know about you; but I feel like my online meeting schedule is still much busier than my in-person meeting agenda pre-COVID. Without the travel time, meetings are often back-to-back-to-back throughout the day, with a scant chance to grab a bite in between. 

No doubt the frequency of these online meetings has illuminated some of my favorite “no-gos” in the speaking arena. Now, instead of hearing one or two throughout the day in a couple of meetings; I get to hear a boatload all day long. I know, no one is perfect. I’m just hoping these six small speech coaching tips from my large arsenal will help everyone be just a little bit better. Consider putting them in your speaking tool box and practicing them on your team calls so they become automatic when you are speaking to clients, members, customers and other stakeholders.

1. Leave “at” at home

Every time you use the word “at” at the end of a sentence, think about leaving it off. It’s an extra word that just doesn’t belong there. For example, “Do you know where you are at?” is so much better as “Do you know where you are?” Or, “Where’s that restaurant at?” could be so much more appetizing as “Where’s that restaurant?”

2. A person is a who, not a that

This one will take some practice, but it’s well worth it to try to get it right. Here’s a good example: “I know a speaker that believes in saying…,” could be transformed into “I know a speaker who believes in saying…” Or “There were many people at the meeting that wanted to speak,” as opposed to the improved statement of “There were many people at the meeting who wanted to speak.”

3. You guys isn’t always you guys

This one’s so rampant that I found myself saying it once too! Here’s a good example: “You guys want to stay on the call for a wrap up?” Well, they aren’t all guys for one. And this colloquial verbiage changes the tone to unprofessional. It also separates the speaker from their team or associates. “You guys might want to take this direction,” could be so much more inclusive by saying, “We all may want to look at taking this direction.” When in doubt, try to leave off the “guys” and just use the word “you.”

4. Um, please embrace the pause

In an in-person meeting, there’s usually a moment when the body language of others clues the speaker they’d like to chime in. It’s tougher to see that body language online. Um and ahhh in-between sentences keeps your team or customer from giving feedback as you go. They serve as place holders to discourage discourse, not to mention their pesky unprofessionalism. Instead, embrace the pause after you’ve made a point. It emphasizes your statement so much better and gives everyone a chance to have a say.

5. Smile, you’re on candid camera

This seems like such an easy ask, but sometimes we all get so caught up in our passion for what we’re saying that we just don’t remember to smile. It’s so important in person, and even more important online, since your face dictates how much people will want to engage. A smile lets people know your optimism, energy and desire to engage. It also beckons them to listen to your words.

6. A turkey is done; you’re finished

On Thanksgiving, my son couldn’t wait to tell me the turkey was DONE! That’s because he’s heard me tell him so many times that “a turkey is done; a project or task is completed or finished.” In a professional setting, the word “done” feels like the task was somehow unpleasant and is better behind you. The words “complete” or “finished” signal an accomplishment instead, and tend to make everyone feel good.