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14.2: Public Speaking Online Vs. Face-to-Face

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    There are two basic types of online speeches, synchronous and asynchronous.

    Types of Online Speeches

    Synchronous speeches are where you give your speech online in real time to a live online audience. Typically, with synchronous speeches, the speaker and audience are using some kind of web conferencing or virtual communication software such as Zoom, Skype, or Google Hangouts to be virtually present together for the speech. The audience may be all physically located in a single space such as a classroom or conference room to view the speech or they may not be gathered together and instead be watching from a computer or mobile device in their home or office.

    When giving a synchronous speech, a speaker may have the ability to get feedback from the audience in real time and adapt their speech as a result of that feedback.

    Asynchronous speeches are not delivered in real time to a live online audience but are instead recorded for viewing at a later time convenient for the audience. Typically, asynchronous speeches will be delivered straight to a camera with no audience present. In an asynchronous speaking situation, the speaker cannot receive feedback from their virtual audience and so must prepare their speech accordingly.

    There are some types of speeches that combine synchronous and asynchronous elements. For instance, in some cases a speaker talks in front of a live audience and a recording of the speech is posted online for a virtual audience to view. The best-known example of this kind of speech delivered to a live audience and posted online would be a TED Talk. More commonly, online meetings or webinars are recorded so that they can be viewed later, hence both synchronous and asynchronous.

    Verbal and Nonverbal Communication Online

    Verbal Communication

    Do you like to listen to podcasts or audio books? If so, think about the way a speaker or reader’s voice helps to keep your attention and interest in what you are hearing. People who make a living using their voices to communicate, whether it be in podcasting, radio, voice over work, etc., know that having a voice that is interesting to listen to both helps them keep their audience’s attention and communicate more effectively.

    Elsewhere in this class we have discussed vocal variety (also called vocal variation), the idea that it is important when speaking to an audience for a speaker to vary aspects of his or her voice, such as rate, volume, and pitch. This variation will help a speaker sound more conversational, and it will also help hold the audience’s attention.

    When you speak online, your voice is crucial to keeping your audience engaged. When you’re speaking into your webcam, particularly if you’re explaining something on the screen (such as a slide deck), it can be easy to speak too fast or to slip into a monotone delivery. After all, without the cue of a live audience in front of us, it’s easy to forget to enunciate, use pauses, and vary vocal pitch. Don’t be fooled! Just because you might feel like you’re talking to yourself, don’t forget that there is an audience waiting to hear what you’ll say.

    The University of Melbourne has developed some tips to help students succeed when speaking online. When it comes to verbal communication, students are encouraged to do the following:

    • Vary the pace of your speaking. It is better to speak a little slower than you usually would rather than faster.
    • Pause occasionally. Use short, half-second stops between phrases to help the audience keep up with you.

    Additionally, the University of Melbourne also suggests you practice by recording yourself doing your presentation and then watch it to get a sense of your voice.

    Nonverbal Communication

    One of the biggest differences between speaking in person and speaking online involves the use of nonverbal communication.

    When speaking in person, we want to be mindful of nonverbal cues like eye contact, gestures, and how we dress. These cues are important as well when we speak online, but online we also have the added dimension of the physical environment we are speaking from and how it may help or hinder our success as a speaker.

    These are some nonverbal and technical aspects to be aware of when speaking online:

    • Awareness of the environment you are speaking in. What does the room you are speaking in look like? It’s best to choose a quiet room where you won’t be interrupted by friends, family, or pets. Be aware of objects that will appear in the video frame with you. If things look messy or cluttered behind you in the frame they may detract from your effectiveness as a speaker. You might consider using a backdrop to hide the contents of the room from which you are speaking.
    • Typically, online we speak while seated instead of standing. Speakers most often sit when they speak online because they are speaking to a computer placed on a desk. When we sit and speak, we often have to work harder to convey energy and enthusiasm than when we are standing.
    • Be aware of how what you wear will look online. Generally, when speaking to a camera online it is best to avoid clothes with stripes or busy prints as they can be distracting. Instead, stick to solids as they tend to show up better. White is generally not recommended as it tends to be the brightest thing on screen.
    • Make eye contact with the webcam and not to the screen. Try and talk through the camera to your audience. To do this, focus your eyes on the camera rather than the screen. If you look at the screen, you won’t be looking at your audience! Also try to place the camera at eye level rather than above or below your face.
    • Use planned-out and deliberate hand gestures. Try to avoid too much hand movement as it can be distracting. When you do use gestures, try to make them intentional but as natural looking as possible.

    Attribution: Authored by: Mike Randolph with Lumen Learning. License: CC BY: Attribution

    14.2: Public Speaking Online Vs. Face-to-Face is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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