How to stop people checking their phones when you speak

3rd November, 2021

How to stop people checking their phones when you speak

Ever had someone check their phone while you were talking on Zoom?


Did it drive you nuts?


Well, here’s the rub. (Are you sitting down? Cup of sugary tea on standby?):


If your audience isn’t engaged when you speak, it’s your problem, not theirs.


Let’s face it, a phone with its seductive come-hither notifications is going to be more appealing than probably 90% of video calls we have to sit through. (‘Did you SEE that adorable cat in the pirate costume?’)


So we need to up our game if we want people to listen to us. And we can’t afford to make any of these mistakes:


1. Rubbish camera set up – your lighting was bad or your camera too low so people were looking up your nose. We search for microexpressions on people’s faces to help us understand them, and so rapidly lose interest if we can’t see them clearly.


(Don’t believe me? Think about how much harder it is to understand what someone is saying if they’re wearing a mask, even if their diction is clear.)


2. Starting with these five deadly words:First a bit of background’. Dong. That’s the death knell for your communication. You lost your audience right from the start instead of hooking them in.


3. It was a monologue, not a conversation – you didn’t get feedback, ask questions or get your audience to participate in any way. If your audience is passive on Zoom for more than 6 minutes, they’ll switch off.


The bad news is, we don’t have the right to people’s attention, we have to earn it.


The good news is, we can earn it, with just a few tweaks to how we communicate.

University of Cambridge


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