How to reduce stress in international video conferences

Our current work-from-home trend has made you a pro in video conferencing - even in English. 

Well, you’re a pro as long as there are no problems. But if the internet connection fails you might panic a little. And forget how to form a sentence - in any language. 


Recently, I actually witnessed a coaching client get confused by a technical difficulty. It could have caused trouble in a business relationship. When there were technical problems, I needed to repeat something. The client I was working with said: “Again”. 

It is very impolite to say “Again” instead of ‘Excuse me, I didn’t hear you. I knew the person I was working with was simply stressed and translating directly from German. But your client may not understand that. Orders are absolutely unacceptable in international business - no matter how stressed you might be.


So how did my smart, competent client go from in control to rude in English? It’s the stress of technical problems - and they’re very common, actually.


Think about what happens to your English when you’re stressed?

Your body goes into "fight-or-flight" mode. This means that your body reacts to the stressful situation. Stress hormones such as adrenaline are released, breathing rate and blood pressure are increased. All other "superfluous" systems, such as digestion, are temporarily switched off. Your communication skills are superfluous - especially in English. 

You are blocked and say something you can really regret.


So how can you make sure stress and technical problems don’t make you rude in English? Read on.


#1 Notice the signs of stress and react the smart way.


As soon as you notice that you are getting tense, try to do a breathing exercise to calm yourself down. 

Apart from that, politely explain what is happening e.g. a bad sound quality that makes understanding difficult. You can also communicate this via the chat function of your video conferencing system. 


It is important to always communicate politely in complete sentences. 

E.g. ‘I am afraid I can't hear you. Could you check your microphone for me?’ or ‘The connection isn't very good. Could you speak up a bit?’


#2 Send out the agenda well in advance


You can reduce stress for yourself and everyone else at the video conference by sending out the agenda. Your colleagues and business partners will definitely appreciate it.

So, make sure you send them the agenda in advance so that they can give you feedback on it. Besides, you might discuss complex issues and that way you give people a chance to prepare – also their language – for the meeting. They can decide whether the topics you are going to discuss are relevant to them and give you some feedback so that you can adjust the agenda and don’t waste other people’s time.


#3 Have some small talk topics prepared in case you have to kill time


Having a few small talk topics ready helps you plan for the unexpected in video conferences. There are always people who turn up 5 minutes or more before the meeting. In this case, it is not ideal to sit there and stare at each other in silence.

You might want to have some small talk topics prepared so that you can get into a little chat.

Maybe you know where your conversation partners are coming from and talk a little about their country and customs for example. 

Another topic could be the weather. It is always interesting to talk about it if you have participants from the other side of the world who are experiencing a different season. For example, wintertime in Germany and summer in Australia.


Just make sure that it really is an easy conversation and you don’t talk about any business at all during that time. You will notice that it’ll make your life easier during the videoconference when you have already established a relationship with some of the participants.


#4 Ask people to speak up and repeat


You can also keep calm and avoid stress by having a plan for when someone in your meeting doesn’t have a great connection. Some people might mumble, speak very fast or have a strong accent. As you need to understand everything in the meeting ask people to either speak up, slow down or repeat.

You don’t need to say: ‘Could you repeat it for me,’, all the time. 

There are plenty of ways to ask people to repeat.


Here are some examples:

‘What do you mean by “difficult meetings”?’ – In this example you mention a chunk of a phrase you could understand and add ‘What do you mean’ to it.


‘In other words your business increased by 25% this year’ – Here you mention what you understood and rephrase it with ‘in other words’.


You could also rephrase a whole sentence. Just rephrase it the way you understood it. Your conversation partner then either confirms its correctness or corrects you.


#5 Make it clear when you move on to the next point in the agenda


My last point today is ‘signposting’ in videoconferencing. It means that you let your audience know how you proceed with the agenda. You give a little introduction to the topic so that your audience can follow your thoughts. 

It means that after you finished discussing one point on the agenda you summarize it in one or two sentences.’So to sum up, those were the challenges we faced at the beginning of last year.’ 


Then you continue with: ‘This brings me to the next point on our agenda’, ‘Let’s continue now with the next point on our agenda which is…’ or ‘The good news is that sales increased by 20% this year. And this is the next point on our agenda’.


There are plenty of ways how you can say it just make sure you use some signposting for the sake of your audience.


#6 Cut stress from video conferences and everyone wins. 


Video conferences are a big topic for my clients and we often spend some time working on them. But these 5 ways of cutting stress are the fastest way for you to improve your video conference now. If you need more help, or have questions about video conference, just get in touch.


There are so many important things to consider regarding international video conferences and you might need some help. I am happy to support you here.


What is a challenge for you in international video conferences?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section. 👇


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