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Virtual Meetings – Overcome These 5 Challenges As A Non-Native Speaker

Virtual meetings have become our bread and butter at work, and yet many non-native English speakers still lack the confidence to speak up. Working in a fast-paced environment with international teams can be intimidating. After all, no one wants to sound silly in front of colleagues or customers.

In this new Talaera Talks episode, we talk about the most common challenges that non-native English face in virtual meetings and we provide specific tools you can use to overcome them.

The Rise Of Virtual Meetings

Since the Covid-19 outbreak, the number of virtual meetings has soared to unimaginable levels. In one year (October 2019 – October 2020), annual Zoom meeting minutes increased by 3300%, from 97 billion minutes to 3.3 trillion. The Zoom growth is just an indicator of how popular virtual meetings have become.

Origins of videoconferencing

  • 1956 AT&T creates Picture-Phone prototype and makes first-ever video call. It transmits still images every two seconds over regular analog public switched telephone network (PSTN) telephone lines.
  • 1964 AT&T’s Bell Labs makes the first transcontinental video call between two venues.
  • Alan Saperstein (American entrepreneur born in 1959) is known as as the first person to broadcast video on the Internet in a commercial application with a product called Hotelview in 1993.

Zoom fatigue

Zoom fatigue is a general feeling of tiredness associated with the overuse of virtual communication, especially videoconferencing. It not only affects people at a physical level, but also their emotional, social, and motivational health.

Participating in virtual meetings involves seeing multiple faces close up (including yours!), which is not natural. It turns out, when someone’s face is that close to ours in real life, our brains interpret it as an intense situation. If you think about it, seeing a face from that close is often a sign of either conflict or mating. What happens is that you’re in this hyper-aroused state for many hours throughout the day.

The cognitive load is much higher in virtual meetings. If you’re a non-native English speaker trying to communicate in English, even more so!

5 Challenges Non-Native Speakers Face In Virtual Meetings

The main challenges that non-native English speakers face when participating in virtual meetings go from the very first minutes of the video call to the very last.

#1 Joining an empty virtual room

The first few minutes of a virtual meeting can be uncomfortable. If you see that no one (or just one other person) is in the virtual room, do you join or wait to see that more people?

Tools to overcome this challenge:

  • 1. Join early to set the tone. Even if it sounds counterintuitive, joining early will help you feel less anxious about the whole virtual meeting. Be the first one to ask a question –this is an easy way to show interest and invite other people to talk. The first people in the room often dictate the dynamics of the meeting, so don’t be scared to hit “join”.
  • 2. Speak up early on. Speaking up early on through a comment or a question is a nice way to tell the other participants, “hey, I’m here”. It will give you confidence to get into the conversation or jump in later.
  • 3. Learn how to engage in small talk. Small talk doesn’t need to be awkward. Learn what small talk topics are OK to talk about in different cultures and which ones you should stay away from, and keep the conversation going.

#2 Interrupting

The way we interrupt is heavily dependent on the culture we are in. What is perfectly normal in some cultures may be totally unacceptable in others. The main difference with virtual meetings is that you cannot use eye contact to indicate that you’d like to say something. In virtual presentations, it is customary to wait until the end to ask questions, although this will depend on your team dynamics.

Tools to overcome this challenge:

  • 1. Raise your ‘tech’ hand ✋ . You know the little reactions that some tools have? Zoom, for example, allows you to raise your hand so that the speaker knows you’d like to say something.
  • 2. Rememeber to unmute yourself. For obvious reasons, but also because having to repeat yourself will not help your confidence.
  • 3. Send a direct message to the speaker. If you know the person speaking well, you can send them a direct message (make sure only they can see it, and not everyone else) to let them know that you’d like to say something.
  • 4. Use an polite phrase to interrupt. The idea of an interruption should be that of politely adding something to what is being said, rather than disrupting or contradicting the message. For that, we’ll use “would like” instead of “want”, for example. In many languages, “I want” sounds like an OK direct translation to express desire. However, in some English-speaking contects, it is preferred to use the less demanding “I would like”.

Phrases to interrupt in a meeting:

#1 Jump on the conversation

  • Hey, Paola, I’d just like to add on something here…
  • May I just add…?
  • I’f it’s OK, I’d like to add…
  • May I quickly jump in here?

#2 Summarize their idea or add something to it

  • In a way, what Itay was saying is [summary of their point].
  • Hey Max, I just want to add on to that example that you had about the marketing situation…
  • I really appreciate your idea about… I think it could be a huge opportunity going forward. Would you also consider [your point]?
  • I loved what you said about [their point], which ties back to [your point, related to their topic].

#3 Involve another person

  • Yeah, I completely agree with that. And I definitely think that’s the direction we should be heading. I would really be curious to know what [this other person] has to say about it.
  • I would be interested to hear what Suzy thinks…

#3 Anxiety about asking people to repeat things

Nobody wants to look silly by asking people to repeat things. This happens to both native and non-native English speakers. Sometimes, however, it’s worth

Tools to overcome this challenge:

  • 1. Send a personal message. If you are in a meeting with lots of people, you can send the speaker a direct message asking them to share the information with you later (Can you please send me this information on this afterwards? / Can I grab 5 minutes with you after the meeting?)
  • 2. Ask for clarification. Don’t be scared of asking people to repeat things or explain concepts. You never know if other people in the meeting are having the same questions. Learn how to ask for clarification without sounding silly and use some of the phrases below.

Phrases to ask for clarification:

I’m sorry, I didn’t quite follow what you said there.

  • I’m sorry, I’m not sure I fully understand.
  • It sounds like what you’re saying is… Is that right?
  • I just want to make sure I fully understand, so what you are saying is…
  • So you are saying that (Q3 sales figures will be lower)… is that correct?

#4 Fear of being misunderstood

Another major challenge in fast-paced meetings is the fear of being misunderstood. It happens, of course, in in-person meetings, but technical glitches and poor internet connection can become a hurdle sometimes. Clear speaking and confidence are, in fact, some of the main goals we work on with our students at Talaera.

Tools to overcome this challenge:

  • 1. Accept it. We are all misunderstood sometimes, both native and non-native English speakers. The first step is to accept that this is completely normal in all sorts of communications and don’t lose your confidence. Also, don’t immediately assume it was your fault. Perhaps what you said was totally perfect and they just didn’t get the message.
  • 2. Aim for simplicity. Many of our students start their training thinking they need to learn grandiose words. They think that creating complex sentences will make them sound smarter or more capable. It turns out, that belief is far from reality. Expressing your message in a simple, well-connected way will make you more approachable and decrease the likelyhood of being misunderstood.
  • 3. Learn to paraphrase. Learn a few helpful paraphrasing techniques and try to repeat the same message with different words. It is a great strategy to make sure you get your message across.
  • 4. Prepare. Write down a few ideas you’d like to bring up during the meeting. Look up all the vocabulary you need and read the sentences out loud, especially if the meeting is about a topic you don’t feel fully comfortable wit.

#5 Keeping things on track

If you are at a meeting and feel it somehow lost focus, don’t be scared to bring things back on track. Everyone will appreciate having a clear summary of what happened during the meeting and what should happen afterward.

Tools you can use:

  • 1. Focus on the main topic. If you see that the conversation is veering off, feel free to suggest a new meeting to discuss the new topic (Let’s pencil in another meeting for next Tuesday, shall we? / I’d love to give this topic the attention it deserves. Shall we book something for next week?)
  • 2. Ask about next steps. Whether you are the organizer or just a participant, feel free to use a quick phrase to recap the action items (So, what are the next steps? / Just to recap, we’ve decided to…)

Listen to this podcast episode and try to apply all these tips in your next virtual meeting.

This article works as supporting material for our podcast episode 36. You can read the transcript below. Make sure you check out all our other Talaera Talks episodes and subscribe to get new episode alerts.

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Talaera Talks – Transcript Episode 36

If you are learning English, including new English words and expressions will help you with effective communication. Remember to check out our other episodes on how to make small talk, how to deliver engaging presentations, how to speak English fluently, and many more: visit the podcast website. Listen to it on your favorite platform.

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Welcome to Talaera Talks, the business English communication podcast for non-native professionals. My name is Paola and I am co-hosting this show with Simon. In this podcast, we’re going to be covering communication advice and tips to help express yourself with confidence in English in professional settings. So we hope you enjoy the show!

Simon Kennell 0:25
Welcome back, wherever you are to another episode of Talaera Talks. My name is Simon, and I hope you are doing well. It is the start of 2022 and our first episode of the year. Very exciting. Paola, are you excited?

Paola Pascual 0:45
I am extremely excited. Yes, we have some very nice goals for this year regarding this podcast. So I hope everyone’s enjoying it and keeps enjoying it throughout the year. It’s really great. So this is the first episode that we do together. We’ve released a couple of them –the shorter one, the bits. But yeah, I’m excited to do this one.

Simon Kennell 1:06
It’s… It’s kind of crazy. We talked about it at the end of the year last year that which really feels like so long ago. I mean, we had the winter break, I guess people around Christmas, I got stuck in Florida. Just yeah, a lot of stuff going on. But back I guess and better than ever. And Talaera is in for a very exciting year. And, yeah, to start, we have a very interesting topic today. Right?

Paola Pascual 1:40
That’s it. So today, we’re going to talk about virtual meetings, and how to overcome some of the most common challenges for non native English speakers. It can be tricky. I know we’re… Most of us are really used to doing meetings online, but there’s still a few challenges that we can help you overcome. So yeah, I don’t know if you have any, any fun facts about virtual meetings.

Simon Kennell 2:06
I have a lot. I have a lot of very fun facts. There’s so we’re in a virtual meeting. Now, of course, and probably most people have done some type of virtual meeting in the past two years especially. I had some that I looked into this a little bit, because I thought it was pretty interesting. I found out that this guy, Alan Saperstein, I hope I’m saying his name, right. So he’s a an American Internet entrepreneur. And I guess he’s kind of recognized as the first person to broadcast video on the internet in like a commercial way. And this was in 1993. So a while ago, and he created a company, it’s now called on stream media corporation, which I guess holds patents to, like video conferencing technology, which I guess if that’s the field in you’re in, then you’re doing really, really well. But really, this whole virtual meeting technology started a lot earlier. We can go back to 1956. And AT&T, they created a picture phone prototype. Oh, yeah. And so I guess that transmitted images every two seconds over public switch telephone network. So sometimes I… You know what’s funny? It’s like you think how much has changed… Sometimes I feel like if you’re on a Zoom call, and it’s lagging, you know, then kind of feels like guess what that would have looked like.

Paola Pascual 3:47
Two seconds. Yeah. Imagine that.

Simon Kennell 3:50
Yeah. I mean, that’s some really awkward pauses, you know, every two seconds. And then, so then in 1964, actually, Bell Labs they, they debuted a picture phone at the World’s Fair. And this was the first transcontinental video call. And they had a people, a group of people in New York calling a group in California and Disneyland. Oh, that’s one. Yeah. So interesting. Really, really interesting. But now we’re here right now we’re here. And like I said, especially the past two years during COVID. I mean, what’s been your experience? Have you ever done as many Zoom calls as you have over the past two years?

Paola Pascual 4:41
No, not at all. So I have always worked remotely, but I used to be a translator. So that was something that didn’t really require virtual calls. But definitely, since I started working at Talaera, that was about four years ago, we started doing calls but now that literally everyone really is at home and the team’s growing and we’re having more meetings. It’s it’s Yeah, many more now. What about you?

Simon Kennell 5:09
Yeah, I mean, no, you know, same I guess I really was working fully in person until working with Talaera, and then everything was online. Which was a little bit weird. But then it’s, it’s also very weird how quickly you get used to it. And so that’s yeah, kind of what, what, what my experience was, but I looked at this, like Zoom growth during COVID. It’s so insane. So in 2019, profits jumped from 21 million a year, like that was their average to 671 million in 2000. And then, this is even crazier. And then sales jumped again, 326% to 2.6 billion in 2020. So I mean, you talk about like, some kind of growth. That’s, yeah, that’s insane.

Paola Pascual 6:04
That is insane. And so with all this growth, to what extent are people getting tired of Zoom meetings with this “Zoom fatigue”? I think everyone’s heard that that term, right. So is it the case that we’re getting used to it? Or we’re getting tired of it? What do you think?

Simon Kennell 6:24
You know, I don’t know. That’s a really good question. I think probably, like on a macro level, right? If we talk about like a lot of people, I think it’s just becoming a part of life. But I think COVID is an interesting test case, because it’s so much so quickly, right? And so, we looked at this thing, you know, Zoom fatigue, and this Stanford professor Jeremy Bailenson, he, he brought up this very interesting point, he said, When someone’s face is that close to ours in real life, our brains intercepted as an intense situation, that’s either going to lead to meeting or to conflict. And so basically, you’re in this hyper aroused state all day where you’re like, is this going to end in meeting? Or is this going to end in fighting and conflict? You know what I mean? I think, yeah, you brought up a good point that we should all just kind of back up a little bit.

Paola Pascual 7:23
Yeah, I’ve also read that some people recommend turning off your your own camera, not turning it off, but like not showing your face to yourself. That helps.

Simon Kennell 7:34
Yeah, and that brings up an interesting question, right is like, is video always the best option? And I don’t know, the more that I read about this and kind of think about this. I don’t know if it necessarily is like, when’s the last time you just had a phone call? You know? And? Yeah, yeah.

Paola Pascual 7:53
Not often. But now with Slack, it offers this option to just jump on a quick call (these huddles that don’t have camera), and I kind of appreciate them, I think having a nice combination of now is the right time to have a video call versus now it’s the right time to have a call. thing. That’s a nice thing to consider. When communicating with teams.

Simon Kennell 8:13
I can’t like fold laundry during a Zoom call, you know what I mean? But wait for having a quick phone call. I can like the other day, one of our colleagues called me Yeah, through the huddle on Slack. And I was just doing like, hamstring stretching, and just kind of hanging around the house. It was actually really nice.

Paola Pascual 8:35

Simon Kennell 8:36
Exactl right. So today, what are we talking about? We’re talking about some of these challenges, right? And how can we communicate effectively? So what are a few of these challenges?

Paola Pascual 8:48
So just to name a few. And here this is, I think that our goal today is to go over them and provide some tools that can help, especially not native English speakers navigate these, these calls that can be intimidating. And the first one is the fear of joining an empty virtual room, or joining one where there’s only one person and I feel like if if you’re, if you don’t feel very confident speaking in English, doing that can be super scary.

Simon Kennell 9:20
Right? Right. And I mean, even still, even if you just have anxiety about you know, just like social anxiety that can be that can be difficult.

Paola Pascual 9:30
Yeah, exactly. Or if you’re, if there’s a manager on the other side, and you don’t feel confident enough, so that’s a very normal fear to have, I guess, but it can be overcome.

Simon Kennell 9:42
Right. So how do we do that?

Paola Pascual 9:44
So one tip or tool that that people can use this to join early, and that can be counterintuitive. Like if I’m anxious, how am I going to join early? But it actually helps you set the tone and it helps you you set the right dynamics. So if you’re there early, if you speak up early on, it will give you the confidence to get into the conversation, you can also almost pick how the call conversation is going to be like the tone. And so that’s, that’s something that I think it really works.

Simon Kennell 10:18
Yeah. And it doesn’t even need to be a very big thing. I mean, we have we talk a lot about small talk and all of that. And I mean, most of the time people show up on time. So if you’re just there a minute early, like, why not take that opportunity? Just to Yeah, just even say, Hey, how’s it going? And let the other person you know, talk about their day, you know,

Paola Pascual 10:40
Exactly! Be the first one to ask, and, and also being there first, we’ll let them what let people know that you’re there. And then when you need to speak up throughout the meeting, it will be just much easier, because everyone will know, you know that you’re there. So that will be that will be the first one joining an empty virtual room. So just joining early. There’s we have this episode on Small Talk that people can also check out and get some tips on how to make it less awkward.

Simon Kennell 11:08
Right? Yeah. Which is always, always something I could use. So that’s great.

Paola Pascual 11:14
Yeah, what else? What are the other challenges that non native English speakers may have?

Simon Kennell 11:18
So this is one that we hear all the time, and it’s interrupting in a meeting, and this is both in virtual meetings, but also in face to face? And it’s just that small kind of voice in your head that’s like, is this? Is this worth me like jumping in? You know, like, the point that I have? Isn’t that great, you know?

Paola Pascual 11:42
And even if it is, I’m sorry to interrupt. I think even even if you think it’s worth it, I think there’s also that little voice in your head saying, Okay, now I’m gonna go no, no, now it’s the right time. Oh, no, no, that wasn’t the right time. By the time you almost get your act together, to speak up, it’s too late.

Simon Kennell 12:01
Yeah, and so we have a few kind of tips here. And I think one of the things that’s really helped a lot of our students has been having a strategy or having some tools, right. So we have tools that you can use from a tech side. And then we also have strategies, you know, communication strategies. So let’s just really quickly start with the tech tools, one of them is just raising, you know, the little hand, if you’re on a Zoom call, you can just raise a little hand. And that’s one of those things that I don’t think a lot of people use, but it is actually pretty effective.

Paola Pascual 12:36
I agree, I feel being the first one to use, it feels a bit awkward and odd. But it’s those that once the first person does it, it’s like yeah, that’s that’s I mean, that’s why why it’s there anyway.

Simon Kennell 12:47
It’s very civilized. And what else what’s, what’s another thing that you should do?

Paola Pascual 12:55
Very obvious one, but remember to unmute yourself, for obvious reasons, but also because it will, not doing so might damage your confidence, having to repeat yourself, you know, so just remember to really unmute yourself. And it’s also especially in meetings where there, there aren’t many people, it’s a way of replacing that eye contact that we usually use in person to tell the other person that we want to talk. So it can be helpful in both ways.

Simon Kennell 13:27
Yeah, yeah. And then good. And then the last one is, yeah, if you do really want to interrupt, and maybe it’s in a large group, so you don’t feel very confident about doing it, but you know, the person that’s talking, you can send them a direct message and just say, hey, you know, can you, you know, set the stage for me to jump in here really quickly on something, or, or, Hey, you know, do you mind if I, if I make a point on that, and, and if someone gets a direct message on that, a lot of times they’ll look at that and say, okay, and then they’ll bridge that into inviting you to make your point. One point here is be very careful that you’re sending a direct message and not a message to everyone because it could look like you’re just you know, passively aggressive. You no writing in the chat, like I would like to make a point please, you know, be careful there. And so when we jump if we have these tech tools that we can use, right but but if we need to jump into the conversation, if we if we want to interrupt, how do we do that?

Paola Pascual 14:30
So I think one very important thing to remember and we always talk about this is the cultural aspect of things and we’re going to provide some also some some specific tools when you do decide to interrupt but I think in in some cultures like I think in the Mediterranean, and that happens here in Spain sometimes and I know in Israel as well in Italy, people time tend to interrupt each other much more and that is not considered rude as part of the conversation. But in other cultures, perhaps in Germany and in Japan, people won’t interrupt. So that’s something to also be mindful of. And we have, you know what we’ll talk about culture more in depth in, in a different episode. But so you do decide that you want to interrupt. And so how do you jump on the conversation? Do we have any specific phrases for that?

Simon Kennell 15:21
Yeah, I think you, you even just almost said it right there to jump on the conversation. I think we think about interrupting sometimes as you know, halting the conversation or something like that, but a good way to kind of go around it is to yet literally jump on and add on something here. And you can use a phrase like, hey, Paola, can I just add on something to your point there? And that’s, you know, not saying, I’m interrupting you, because your point is bad. And I, and my point is more important. It’s saying, Hey, can I just add something to your point? And, you know, we use that, like, you know, I would like you can make it more polite. Or if you really know the person, I just want to add something to that, you know, I just want to add something to that. Or I always go for, Hey, can I just add something? So adding is really good, a good way to interrupt. And then as well, you know, we want to summarize and add something to it, right? So summarize their idea and add something to that. And what’s the what’s the purpose of that?

Paola Pascual 16:23
So here, it’s it’s a bit similar to what you were saying before, you’re not saying that what the other person said is wrong, you’re actually showing that you listen to them, and that you understand what they’re saying. Especially the part where you summarize, and then what you’re doing is adding on to it, instead of saying, that’s a good point BUT, you can say, oh, yeah, I hear what you’re say ing AND this is another idea that could go well with it.

Simon Kennell 16:53
Right. Right. And that way, you’re you’re adding to the flow of the conversation. You’re not Yeah, putting that halt in, right. And then, and then the last one, right, is, is involving another person. And I think this is really helpful in virtual meetings, especially in meetings where there are those that that don’t, you know, speak up that, you know, feel very awkward jumping in, and you can take the initiative and involve another person. How do you do that?

Paola Pascual 17:22
So with that, you can do it in different ways. But the most effective one is using the other person’s name. And here, you can either use the person that was just talking, or you can also bring in someone in the meeting that you have a close relationship with. So if you have a colleague that it’s almost like a friend colleague can tell, yeah, and I totally agree with what Anna was saying. And and would add to it, as long as it’s related to the topic, right. So one way to go about it again, going back to the beginning, it could be to okay, you’re interrupting the person that speaking you could say something like, yeah, I totally agree with that, or I completely agree with that. And I definitely think that’s the direction we should be heading. And then you can introduce a question something like, oh, I would really be curious to know what this person has to say about it. Or I would be interested to hear what Susie thinks. So that could be one way, you know, to involve a third person that was not talking. Right.

Simon Kennell 18:23
And that’s a great strategy. Because I think very rarely would everybody just say, No, we don’t care what Susie thinks let’s just move forward. You know, that’s not gonna happen. Yeah, exactly. So Susie will get her chance to, to speak then. Okay, so interrupting, is that different in virtual meetings, as opposed to in person meetings? What do you think about that?

Paola Pascual 18:50
I think it’s very different. So there’s the phrases that we just mentioned, that we’ll add to the blog will also work for in person meetings, but there’s a few aspects that are very different. So when you’re interrupting in person, you can make eye contact, you can take a deep breath, for example, like, and that almost shows that you’re about to talk and the other person will almost yield and let you let you speak. But that doesn’t happen in virtual meetings where most of us are on mute all the time. So here we will have to use the the raise hand option or the using the name of the other person, that’s almost how we replaced the making eye contact. So there are a few. Yeah, I think I don’t know if you agree.

Simon Kennell 19:38
No, I agree as well. I agree as well. And it is something about the whole body language aspect. You really kind of have to go above and beyond to use body language in a video call. I did a project on this. It’s an it’s called computer mediated communication. Okay, so that That’s the big science word for today. But a lot of times because most of the time the screen is at your chest level, you know, there’s so much that’s happening, that people aren’t seeing when it comes to body language. And so you know, you can you can try but it like you said, it is very different. So, we’ve talked about interrupting. But this is one that I think, is very challenging as well, asking people to repeat things if you if you’re not sure if you don’t understand. I’ve heard that a lot. I don’t know about you. But a lot of my students have talked about that.

Paola Pascual 20:39
I think this is one of the main ones because you know, the first challenge we talked about is joining an empty virtual room. Interrupting Yes, a lot of people do have concerns about it. But no one really no one wants to feel silly by asking people to repeat. So I think this one is one that is the most popular one for sure.

Simon Kennell 21:03
Yeah, there’s there’s that kind of, it’s like, You’re damned if you do damned if you don’t a little bit because you’re you’re kind of like, either I sound like I’m not paying attention, or I sound rude. And I’m, you know, trying to make this person feel like they, you know, they don’t know what they’re talking about. Right. But there are ways, there are ways that you can do this, what are a few of the tools that we can use? To ask for Yeah, you know, someone to repeat something.

Paola Pascual 21:34
So the first thing is to build the courage to actually ask for clarification, we’ll give some phrases in a moment. So that I think that will be the first one everyone, really. So accept that we sometimes don’t understand each other, even if we are native English speakers. And and, you know, once you accept that it’s okay to just say things like, I’m sorry, can you say that again? Or can you expand a little bit on that point? Or? Oh, that sounds interesting, but I’m not quite sure what you meant by… and then you specify exactly what you said. But I guess some people do feel a bit too anxious about asking people to, to repeat things. So what do we do then?

Simon Kennell 22:20
Yeah, I mean, there’s a few different tools, you know, you can send a personal message, you know, we talked about that before as well. Just a quick message, if you don’t want to make it a big thing, send a quick message, and especially if the if the meetings kind of going past the topic, send a message to that person that was presenting, and just say, Hey, can you send me this information afterwards? Or can I get five minutes to discuss this with you after the meeting? You know, so there’s a lot of those where you can get that clarification from that person just at a later time, it doesn’t necessarily need to be now and it doesn’t need to be in front of everybody. As well, you know, you can you can use and this is what we’ll talk about is different phrases, if you need clarification at the time, and it’s very important. There’s a few different things that you can you can do. So, we have a lot of these different phrases, a lot of them that you’ve put together, can you can you tell us a few of these?

Paola Pascual 23:21
Yeah, so one of them could be to be honest, and tell them, Listen, I just want to make sure I fully understand. So what you’re saying is, and hear you try to almost summarize or explain things in your own words. And that really shows that you were trying your best to understand and and that way, they can also identify the specific points that you perhaps didn’t get 100% right. Or things like another phrase could be. So you’re saying that, da da da da? Is that correct? Or have I understood that correctly? Basically, the idea or the concept in a nutshell, is this right? So those are a few phrases where you try to really summarize what they were or what you understood. And then they can take it from there.

Simon Kennell 24:06
Yeah. And you know, this is, it’s so funny, because, you know, we’re at least us two, we’re familiar with Simon Sinek. And, you know, he has all these books, and he does this, all this consulting, and I saw this video where he was talking about he was in this meeting with all these really hot shot, you know, executives and board members. And there’s some top of the line consultant explaining something at the board. And he looks around and everybody’s you know, nodding along and saying, yeah, yeah, that sounds great. And he was the only person that had no idea what was going on. And so he just said, Hey, I’m sorry, but I don’t fully understand this. And then one by one, each of the, you know, executives around the table say yeah, I don’t understand it either. Can you explain it though? You know, that’s just a I think a great little story that To show that, you know, you’re not always the dumbest person in the room. And most often, you know, there’s someone else that probably feels the same. And will appreciate your question as well. Yeah, exactly.

Paola Pascual 25:15
Great. So one way is one challenge. Sorry, is when you when we don’t understand the other person, we feel too anxious about asking them. But the other fear that we tend to have is about being misunderstood. Like, I’m not, I’m not explaining things clearly enough, or my accent is not good enough. So what can we do there?

Simon Kennell 25:37
At again, you know, another big one that we hear all the time is how do I communicate effectively, which, you know, just to drop that in? We’re going to have a very exciting webinar very soon about that. But yes, we do. We do hear that a lot. And there’s a lot of things about this, you know, I’ve done some coaching with some of our students were a big part of it is, you know, accepting that, hey, you know, it’s not going to be whatever perfect is, in my mind, you know, the most amazing speech ever, it’s not always going to be that and that’s okay. We’re all misunderstood sometimes. And there’s no perfect communication, right? Skill. So, you know, learning to paraphrase is a big one, I think preparing your points, we talk about this a lot, having specific points, one, two points that you want to make. And

Paola Pascual 26:36
add on to that the in the preparation stage, if you know that you’re going to talk about a topic and you’re not very confident explaining it, try to practice it at home. Yeah, write down a few sentences, just like the the main points that you would like to get across and practice it out loud. That really helps.

Simon Kennell 26:54
Right? Right. And, and, you know, a big part of it is, is make it simple. You don’t need to use a lot of very elaborate language, you know, and big business terminology. You know, you’ve really, at the end of the day, it’s about communicating effectively. And as long as you can get the point across. That’s the big one. And that, yeah, that comes to our last point, which is how do we keep meetings on track and make them actionable? Right, so one of the things we talked about with being understood is having a few bullet points. But a lot of that comes to how do we make things happen? How do we how do we make the meeting actually worth it by having action points? The worst is, I’m sure you’d agree is going into a meeting and getting nothing out of it, right?

Paola Pascual 27:48
That’s not fun. I know.

Simon Kennell 27:50
No, no, no, no, it’s it’s really bad. And yeah, if you’ve been around, I guess, you know, you’ve been in those meetings, keeping it on track, especially if you’re the one leading the meeting is critical. And how do we do that?

Paola Pascual 28:03
Yeah, I and I totally agree with you, especially if you’re leading the meeting. But I think you can also be proactive, even if you’re just one of the regular participants. And if you feel like the meeting is coming to an end, and you have that feeling of I really don’t know what what what’s happening now, feel free to use some of these phrases to really clarify what the next steps or action points are. And so one of the phrases could be Alright, great. So what are the next steps? That’s a great one I use all the time. Yeah.

Simon Kennell 28:37
I saw you right now. Yeah, that’s, that’s, that’s a Paola quote, right there.

Paola Pascual 28:44
Something else could be. So we’ve decided to… and then you can summarize what everyone has decided to do. Or perhaps you can involve someone else and say, So Anna, could you take the lead on that? And here’s like, Would you be responsible for that? Or for example, Yes, we need to put the the episode together. Simon, would you could you take the lead on that? Right? And if Yep, sorry!

Simon Kennell 29:09
No, just to add on to that, you know, these these ones are all so effective, not only for making action points, but also for if the, if the meeting is kind of veering off track, and we need to kind of bring it back. It’s like, okay, so can we agree on those next steps that we talked about today? But then can we hold off on this other point for you know, another meeting and really give that topic the the time that it deserves? And there you’re you’re even then putting in action points for another meeting about some topic that won’t clutter the meeting that you have today? Right?

Paola Pascual 29:47
Exactly like not be scared of saying, listen, that’s not the topic for today with the nice words that you just mentioned. But it’s a nice way of saying let’s give this topic the the attention that it deserves. And then if you need to penciled in another meeting thing you can do that with a phrase like, let’s pencil in another meeting for next Tuesday to go over that topic. Yeah. To pencil in is to arrange to arrange something,

Simon Kennell 30:11
Right? Yeah to pencil it in, or Let’s book something for next week or something like that. That’s always what I use now that we’re just booking meetings, virtual meetings all day now. So great, great, great. Great. So we have a lot of good points today. What what did we, what did we go over today, Paola.

Paola Pascual 30:31
So we started with that anxiety that we sometimes get when we are about to join an empty virtual room. And what we said is, don’t be scared to join in, it will actually pay off throughout the meeting, and learn how to engage in small talk. So that was one. We also talked about interrupting and how to do it. And there are cultural differences that we should always consider. But the raise your tech hand is is a helpful tool. And then we also gave a lot of phrases that we’ll add to the blog where people can just download it. What else we talked about feeling anxious about asking people to repeat things, what do we do there?

Simon Kennell 31:12
Yeah, so So with that, again, there are tools sending direct messages, hey, can you send me this information after? Or hey, can I grab five minutes with you after this meeting? But then also, yeah, throwing in phrases and just saying, Listen, I just want to make sure I fully understood right. Or, in other words, what you’re saying, is this, this and this, is that correct? Right. So So rephrasing and, and being okay with that. Maybe you’re not the only person that didn’t didn’t understand.

Paola Pascual 31:44
Very true. Great. So the next point we talked about was being misunderstood. And hear there’s something we didn’t mention, but sometimes it’s not your fault, the fact that they didn’t understand sometimes there is noise, and there are technical difficulties. So don’t be scared of repeating the same message exactly how you said it, perhaps it was perfectly right. Try to rephrase it, you know, paraphrase said, say it with different words, and prepare a little bit in advance if you know, it’s going to be a hard topic for you then just prepare some phrases or sentences that will help you. And then to keep it on track. Always make sure that you use some of these phrases to either bring the conversation back to the main topic, or also to make sure that the meeting has some action items that everyone, you know that everyone has homework to do afterwards.

Simon Kennell 32:34
Right, exactly. You know, what do we do now? Right, what are we walking away with? And I think that should be a question that everybody is very clear on if at the end of the meeting, and and if you have something that needs another discussion, you can pencil it in for another time.

Paola Pascual 32:52
So what what are the next steps, Simon?

Simon Kennell 32:55
There we go action items. All right, next steps is if you are listening, subscribe, write a comment, write into us. Tell us what do you want to hear? What do you want to learn about? As well sign up for our upcoming webinar. It’s going to be on effective communication. And we’ll be bringing up a lot of these points. But also there’s there’s so many more. I don’t know how we’re gonna get through everything for that one, but there’s gonna be so much so much good stuff. But then besides that, what else we have some upcoming guests. Right, follow?

Paola Pascual 33:31
Yeah, so we started having some great, great guests last year. Those were some of my favorite episodes. But we’re, that’s something we’re keep doing. We’re going to keep doing. And I think that’s going to be amazing. I couldn’t be more excited about that.

Simon Kennell 33:47
I know, I’m so excited about these upcoming guests. So yeah, so hit subscribe, hit like, wherever you are, we hope that you enjoy the episode. It’s great to be back for 2022. And this year is going to have so much exciting content and stuff that we’re going to be doing. But that is it for us today. And as always, wherever you are, keep learning.

And that’s all we have for you today. We hope you enjoyed it, and remember to
subscribe to Talaera Talks. We’ll be back soon with more! And visit our website at for more valuable content on business English. You can also request a free consultation on the best ways for you and your team to improve your communication skills. So have a great day and keep learning!

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