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Communication skills training: How to improve your Teams calls

We’ve run communication skills training for over 34 years.

We’d figured it all out.

And then came Covid-19.

Our business, like everyone else’s, was turned upside down.

Here are five things we’ve learned since March 2020 about online communication skills.

And specifically, how to make your mark on Teams.

1. A Teams call can be engaging

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But you have to work for it.

It starts with your body language.

Address the camera down the lens, rather than looking at the screen.

Why? That’s where your audience is.

Otherwise it’ll look like you’re talking at them.

To help with that, place any notes near the camera, either by propping them up against the screen or by minimising the screen and using a Word document.

Whatever you lose from seeing people’s reactions, you gain many more times over in making everyone feel present.

That also means getting your posture and your positioning correct.

Ensure you’re taking up most of the screen, avoiding any wasted space at the top.

Balance your laptop on a laptop stand (or boxes/books) to bring the camera to eye level.

Make sure you’re lit from the front to avoid being seen as a a silhouette against a window.

Now it’s more like you’re sitting opposite them in a café or around a Boardroom table.

2. A Teams call can be inspiring

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But you’ve got to earn it.

I was always told by my Dad that the thing that had brought him most success in his life was his enthusiasm.

And that’s magnified on Teams.

Frankly, your audience has a choice: listen to you or check their emails.

Only if you are fully enthusiastic about your topic will the audience engage with you.

That means varying your tone to match the meaning of the words.

Rather than saying:

“Hi everyone, I’m going to talk you through ABC…”

Tell them:

“I’m excited to tell you about ABC because it benefits you in XYZ ways…”

And you can make ’excited’ sound exciting just through your enthusiasm.

I always aim for the enthusiasm of a pantomime performer.

When you’re all alone in a room staring at a laptop, that character within has a chance to come out and take over.

3. A Teams call can be interactive

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But you’ve got to own it.

Always appear in vision before you show any slides.

That way, the first impression your audience makes of you is based on your smile, your first line and your charisma.

Rather than the boring slide you borrowed from last week’s Board meeting.

There will be time for slides, and much of those can be sent after the call anyway.

This is a chance to speak, to listen and to gauge audience reaction.

Make sure you’re clear on how the audience can contribute.

And whether they should take notes or if they’ll get the handout afterwards.

Should they raise their hand physically? Virtually? Put a question in the chat? Interrupt you?

And what roles do they have during the call?

Are you looking for their support? Challenges? Let them know at the start.

When we run a presentation skills training, we always attribute roles in the breakout rooms.

Somebody will make the presentation.

Another will ask questions at the end.

The rest will analyse and be ready to tell us their thoughts.

That way everyone feels involved and stays with us the whole way through.

4. A Teams call can be short

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But you’ve got to plan it.

Plan a clear agenda with the most important points prioritised to the top.

Get to the point quickly, telling the audience why they should care, rather than starting with all the background and context.

Share that agenda with the audience so they can do the preparation too.

Finish with a clear Call to Action, so they know what to do next.

5. A Teams call can be controlled

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But you’ve got to practise it.

Online moderation, whilst speaking, is one of the hardest skills to master in the post-Covid world.

And sometime it’s better recruiting a colleague to help with admissions and questions.

If you are moderating, work on your introductions; yours and other people’s.

Rather than needing to read out everyone’s CV and job title, find an informal way of introducing them:

“Jane heads up our IT department and led the last big change project relating to the Cloud, so she’s our expert today for any technical questions about the programme”.

Use breakout rooms to their full potential for discussions or interactive tasks.

They’re scary at first, but once you master them, it really does help with audience attention and interaction.

Communication skills training

Communication skills training, teams call with pink elephant

Three and a half years on from the first lockdowns, it’s time to stop seeing Teams as a poor replacement.

A Teams call can be better than an in-person meeting, but you’ve really got to want to improve.

So work on your body language, your voice, your interaction, your introductions, and getting more people involved.

Many people tell us they prefer Teams.

It brings them out of their shell without having the anxiety of presenting in-person.

There’s the obvious sustainability angle.

And it’s often far more productive.

Boost your communication skills today by making sure every time you present online, you’re right at the top of your game.


Andrew McFarlan runs Pink Elephant Communications.

Read more about him here.


Communication skills training blog written by Andrew McFarlan.
Communication skills training blog written by Andrew McFarlan.
All photos in communication skills training blog by Pink Elephant Communications. 

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