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Welcome to the new normal: how to talk professionally online

6 May 2020: the rapid migration to online meetings is one of the biggest business process changes in living memory. So how can you make the most of this new normal and embrace the “we’re all broadcasters now” mantra?

Now that seemingly everyone has to take part in, or even lead, online meetings via Zoom or Teams, many of us could do with our own broadcast journalist to walk us through the essentials of how to talk professionally online and to avoid making any major howlers.

Fortunately, help is at hand in the guise of Roz Morris. a former BBC and ITV broadcaster, and now managing director of a media training firm. In her ICAEW webinar ’Welcome to the new normal – how to talk professionally online’, Morris seeks to demystify online meetings and help those new to the medium get the best from the discipline.

Morris describes the rapid coronavirus-induced migration to online meetings as one of the biggest business changes in her lifetime. With virtually all presentations, meetings and even job interviews now taking place online, Morris believes that mastering new skills in this area is vital because “we’re all broadcasters now”.

Be your own producer and director

Among the topics covered in the webinar are how to light and frame yourself properly as “everyone now needs to be the producer and director of their online image”.

Online meetings are what Morris describes as “a high-focus activity” and “like a one-to-one meeting but worse, as you don’t know when someone is looking at you and assessing you” with participants essentially “on parade” the whole time.

Good preparation is key and much more so than for a simple phone call, stresses the former Guardian and Observer journalist.

Key elements to check before starting any online meeting are that all your technical equipment is working properly, whether that be an iPad, phone or laptop. Consideration should also be given to prepping any content you need to share as well as keeping an eye on your posture – no slouching – and overall demeanour. Aim for happy and confident as a goal.

It’s also important to check your background so that viewers and participants aren’t distracted by what’s on your bookshelves, your bedroom or a “strangely placed doorknob growing out of the side of your head”, something Morris suggested was “not advisable”.

Meanwhile, those using mobile phones can enhance their lighting abilities by purchasing an inexpensive ring light and to alleviate any ‘shudder’ by using a small, bendy tripod.

You’ve been framed

Framing your shot is also important, says Morris.

That means not being too close or too far away and ensuring you are centred with your eyeline appearing one-third of the way down the screen.

Camera angles, especially the ‘up the nose shot’ should be avoided at all costs as should wandering eyelines.

Morris was quick to highlight that heaps of technical knowledge were not needed, just an awareness of what could go wrong and solid planning to avoid them from the start.

Looking at the camera at all times is key, as even though it may feel unnatural, it helps to “make you look professional and confident”.

Tidy clothes, tidy space

Appearances matter, and none more so than when online says Morris. Ensure one’s hair is tidy and any other distractions as “we all decode people”.

Major ‘no-no’s’ include avoiding big jewellery, sunglasses and ‘reactolite’ spectacles, and busy or tiny patterned clothing and brooches – Lady Hale and her spider brooch being a now-infamous case in point.

Moving onto the wardrobe, women should avoid blouses as they can look untidy, says Morris, whereas a simple plain top will always look good.

Avoid a crumpled shirt as “we mentally tidy people up before we listen to them” and because “we’re all a bit like the people on Channel 4’s Gogglebox TV programme - easily distracted and critical,” she quipped.

Morris cited the BBC wardrobe team on TV’s Apprentice programme as a good example of how to wear simple, plain clothing, using block colours. 

Both sexes look good in a “well fitted” jacket which can “frame you very well”, while men should wear tailored shirts if possible.

Whenever possible use a quiet space where there will be no interruptions from children or pets to avoid ‘hilarious’ episodes such as professor Robert Kelly’s triple BBC TV interruption.

By embracing Morris’s helpful tips and guidelines, viewers of the webinar should find they have travelled a long way down the line to ensure that they too are now a confident part of the “we’re all broadcasters now” mantra.

You can watch the webinar now or get more details by clicking here.