Being a great communicator is one of the most important and overlooked skills you will ever need in life.

As a shy and introverted person, you’d be surprised to know that I have spent 6 years working a side job as a Business English Instructor, teaching clients from more than 50 countries around the world.

Working with so many people, especially non-native English speakers, has been a real-life masterclass in how to communicate effectively.

As a freelancer, builder, or creator, one of the biggest keys to success in business is likeability.

If people like you, they will continue to do business with you, they will want you on their team, and they might even refer you to others.

After 6 years, and thousands of video calls, here are my best tips for becoming a better communicator over Zoom or video conference.

Begin and end on a high note

Most people won’t remember every single minute of your conversation.

What they will remember are the beginning and end.

On the importance of endings, Dan Pink writes,

In stories as in life, endings leave an imprint. Endings affect us in multiple ways. They help us encode — to evaluate and record what we’ve encountered. They help us energize — often inspiring us to act better or differently because of what we’ve learned. And they help us elevate — not through syrupy, cliched “happy” endings, but through endings that deliver meaning, purpose, and significance.

Really put intentional effort into making a good first impression during the call, even if you already know the person.

If you’re having the worst day ever, don’t take it out on other people.

Offer a friendly smile, ask the other person or people how they’re doing, and genuinely listen as they respond.

Then, when the call is coming to a close, make sure to end on a positive note.

Inc Magazine offers some great tips on this topic in the article, 7 Ways to End Every Meeting on a Positive Note, including:

  • Keep it positive: Highlight the positive contributions your team has made.
  • End it with action: Briefly review all action steps.
  • Be nice, like you mean it: Offer a sincere thanks to everyone for attending and perhaps spend a few minutes on a non-work-related topic.

Especially if the call is with a client or customer, you always want them to leave the call smiling, happy, and excited to continue working with you.

Keep your words and ideas simple and easy to understand

Using complicated or flowery language is great if you’re writing a novel, but is not necessary for everyday life.

You don’t need to use big words in order to look smart.

One of the greatest lessons that I’ve learned through teaching is the importance of simplifying ideas.

As Albert Einstein said,

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.

I know that this seems like a no-brainer but having the biggest vocabulary will not win you any awards in your work life.

Instead, if you want a goal to reach, focus on being as succinct and clear as you possibly can.

When you open your mouth in a meeting, you want your clients to be 100% clear on what you’re trying to convey.

That should always be the goal.

Don’t interrupt people

This is probably one of the most cringe-worthy things that I see.

Especially because most people aren’t intending to be rude and often they don’t even know that they’re doing it.

Whether you’re the one doing the interrupting, or if you have colleagues or clients that do this to you, Psychology Today offers some helpful advice for dealing with this in the article, ‘How to Deal With People Who Interrupt.’

I know that it’s not easy, but do your best to really listen to what the other person is saying, rather than just thinking through your own response.

Believe me, you don’t need to be the loudest voice or the one doing the most talking, to be the most valued opinion on the call.

In fact, the less you speak, and the more you truly listen to others, this will make people all the more interested in what you have to say.

An easy way to help you avoid interrupting is to follow the next tip.

Pause for 1–3 seconds before you speak

Most of us don’t like silence in a conversation, it makes us nervous.

However, after 6 years of working 1 on 1 with non-native English speakers, I’ve learned that this is so important.

I know how easy it is to immediately jump in as soon as the other person finishes speaking.

However, I’ve found that most of the time, if I pause for a couple of seconds, the person I’m speaking with often has something valuable to add.

Brian Tracy, author of the famous productivity book Eat That Frog says,

When you pause, not only do you become a more thoughtful person, but you convey this to the customer. By extension, you become a more valuable person to do business with. And you achieve this by simply pausing for a few seconds before you reply after your prospect or customer has spoken.

If you can adopt this practice, you’ll find that the other person or people will appreciate you giving them space and time to complete their thoughts and they will show you the same courtesy in return.

Show your warmth and kindness

Now, if you’re an introvert or more reserved this doesn’t mean you need to be fake or overly animated.

Instead, focus on 3 simple things:

  • Smile
  • Make eye contact
  • Nod your head to show agreement

Even if you’re on the telephone or have your video off, your smile will come through in your voice.

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in “doing business” and we forget that we’re working with real people, not robots.

As the Dalai Lama said,

A simple smile. That’s the start of opening your heart and being compassionate to others.

We all have friends, families, dreams, and lives outside of work.

Showing the smallest amount of interest in other people will go a long way.

Be 100% focused on the conversation

This means that you shouldn’t be multitasking.

Put away your phone and close the 20 other tabs that you have open on your computer.

People are smart and observant.

If you are distracted, the other person or people will pick up on it very quickly.

In today’s world, giving your 100% focus to someone is rare.

Because it’s so rare, doing this will make you stand out for all the right reasons.

Plus, once you learn to do this in your work life, you can extend this to every relationship you have with friends, family, etc.

If focusing is difficult for you, The Remote Leadership Insitute offers some great ideas for focusing during meetings such as:

  • Move your cell phone out of arm’s reach.
  • Make notes the “old-school” way by using pen and paper.
  • Close all other windows on your computer.
  • Disengage notifications.

Record yourself (with the approval of the other people in the meeting)

In a previous job, I was a co-host for the organization's weekly podcast.

For the first few months, editing and re-listening to myself were absolutely brutal.

In fact, it was downright humiliating.

If you’ve never recorded yourself, give it a try.

Yes, it will be embarrassing, but it will also teach you so many valuable lessons about how you communicate.

You might find that you use the filler word “umm” far too often as I do.

Or, maybe you have a tendency to speak over people or dominate the conversation.

Whether you are a native English speaker or not, we all have areas to improve.

The OET (Occupational English Test) organization offers some advice for what to listen for when we record ourselves. For example, they mention:

  • Listen to the speed at which you spoke.
  • How many times did you say um, er, or other hesitation phrases?
  • Listen to the vocabulary you used. Was it appropriate for the situation and person you were talking to?
  • Did you respond appropriately to the other person in the conversation? If they asked you a question, did you answer it?

Remember that we all have faults when it comes to communicating and the sooner we learn from these mistakes, the better we will be going forward.

It’s never too late to become a better version of yourself.