Working from Home+Office is Our New Normal
A recent New York Times piece on hybrid work was called “Remote Work is Here to Stay“—and on the day that it was written, the isle of Manhattan—home to the two largest business districts in the U.S.—had 90% fewer people working in its office towers than a year before.
Is this trend going to continue? The Chief Operating Officer of JP Morgan Chase claimed in a quote that there was “zero percent chance [of] going back to the office with 100 percent of the people 100 percent of the time” and zero percent chance of major corporations going fully remote.
Which leaves us with an as-yet-undefined mixture of live and remote experiences.
Hybrid work. Hybrid relationships. Hybrid lives.
And of course, hybrid public speaking.
Are you ready to speak “hybrid”?
Communicating virtually has been a struggle—hour after hour of talking to a screen gets tiring, even if you’re wearing slippers—and now we’re going to add in-person communication to the mix.
Fortunately for all of us, this will be easier than starting to wear shoes again.
That’s because the basic principles for communicating well are the same whether you’re on a virtual platform like Zoom, in an actual room with your listeners, or juggling both (a/k/a hybrid work).
What are those principles? Here are a few of my favorites:
1. Intend to Be Heard
Everything you have to say is important; so when you open your mouth to speak, be sure that you expect people to listen!
2. Know Your Objective
There are many reasons to speak up in public. You may want to persuade your listeners, or inform them. To entertain, or add value, or just be seen as someone who participates. You may want to start an argument, or end one.
Whatever your goal, try to be clear with yourself about it. Knowing what you’re after makes it a lot easier to get, whether you’re speaking onscreen, live, or both.
3. Set the Stage (and Position Yourself on It)
On a virtual platform, this means paying attention to how you look to others. Check your “Hollywood Square” (thumbnail image) to assess your lighting (it should be in front of you, not behind), the height of your device (your camera should be at eye level), how much of the thumbnail is filled with you (you should be most of what’s in the picture; if you’re not, get closer to your camera), and your backdrop.
In a live presentation, make sure you have room to move around (because you shouldn’t be hiding behind the lectern :-)), that people’s view of you isn’t blocked by objects (including the screen), and that you know how to use your mic, if you have one.
And for hybrid work (when your audience is both live and virtual), be sure to give each group a fair share of your attention. Speak loudly, slowly, and clearly (sometimes looking directly at the camera) for your at-home listeners. Move around and make lots of eye contact to engage your in-person listeners. It’s a balancing act, but you can do it.
4. Make Your Most Important Point Early
You’ve gone to the trouble of being easy to hear, being clear about your goals, and “framing” yourself visually.
Once you’ve focused everyone’s attention with a brief story or question or fact, quickly move to your main point. And if someone is asking you a question, hold their interest by answering the question first.
5. Reference People by Name
One trick that I teach my clients is to refer to other people’s comments in a meeting or conversation, by saying things like,
- “Tanya makes a really good point about…” or
- “Josh, when you and Miguel were debating whether or not to…”
This is particularly easy to do on virtual platforms because the participants’ names are right in front of you, in their thumbnails.
Referencing what other people have said has two advantages: It allows you to participate, even if you have nothing of staggering importance to say. (Speaking up is good for your reputation, especially if you don’t do it often.) And it’s also actively good for the group when someone builds bridges to other people’s comments, whether you’re meeting in the real, or in virtual.
Let the wild rumpus begin
Actually, the “rumpus” (our hybrid work future) is beginning whether we like it or not.
I’ll be watching to see how we all adjust to these new demands, and how they effect our public speaking; you’ll almost certainly be looking for ways to make your life run more smoothly on two simultaneous tracks.
What strategies and hacks will you discover?
What hybrid questions and challenges are you thinking (or even worrying) about?
Let me know what you’re thinking… because we’ll no doubt be talking about all of this for a long time to come!