We live in a short-attention-span world these days. TikTok captures viewers' attention for seconds at a time, advertisements last for five seconds before they’re summarily skipped, and it takes a couple of moments before everyone in a virtual classroom turns off their video. How can you communicate effectively this way?
Because of the fast-changing landscapes around us, especially in the hallowed halls of higher education, it is of critical importance to engage with students or faculty and ensure we communicate effectively so that the right lessons and information are passed on.
Tips for communication in higher education
Whether you’re a college professor looking for better ways to connect with your students or a student interested in improving your professional communication skills, understanding how to communicate well is of utmost importance.
We form relationships based on how deeply we connect with one another, and we form those connections through effective communication, both verbal and non-verbal.
Set yourself up for success
Sometimes you have to be spontaneous and organic when meeting and conversing with others, but in college, it’s far more likely that you’ll be giving presentations, lectures, or talks that you’ve known were coming up for weeks or even months.
Because of this, you have the ability to prepare yourself ahead of time for what you’re going to do and say. Take full advantage of that! Sit down before the time you have to make a presentation and figure out not only what you want to communicate, but how and why as well.
Do a couple of practice runs to make sure you know the material backward and forwards. If you have an interactive portion of the presentation—such as allowing questions from the audience—write down the questions you’re most likely to be asked and have answers prepared in advance.
A prepared presenter is a confident presenter, and that confidence you exude when you walk up to the front of the classroom will also help you draw in your audience and keep their attention through the presentation.
Script out important presentations
If you’re presenting to college students, you’re either an instructor giving a lecture or a student giving a carefully prepared presentation. This gives you the ability to script out important conversations for when you engage with your audience. Scripting out large portions of your presentation can help you stay on point and well-paced.
These days, because of the prevalence of virtual classrooms, you can use virtual tools to help you script your presentation. Virtual teleprompter apps like VODIUM allow you to maintain eye contact with your audience and the camera while also allowing you to read from a prepared script that is superimposed over the video image.
Control your body language
The researcher Albert Mehrabian, in his studies on human conversation, discovered that 55% of all communication appears to be non-verbal in nature. This means that over half of what you say to a classroom full of students, or to your lab partners, or to your friends on the quad, is communicated through how you hold yourself and what non-verbal cues you give.
Knowing this, you can take steps to control and even enhance your own non-verbal communication. If you stand stiff and unmoving while presenting, you may come off as nervous or incompetent to your viewers, and may need to force yourself to appear relaxed and calm.
Eye contact can make or break a presentation, especially over a virtual meeting where so much of that 55% is obscured or obfuscated by the video window. Practice keeping a good amount of eye contact with yourself in a mirror; see what feels natural and what feels like too much and apply that to your virtual meetings as well.
Because so much of our higher learning takes place over video calls now, a teleprompter app like VODIUM can help enhance your non-verbal communication. Because the script for your presentation is placed right below the camera, you can concentrate on maintaining eye contact and sending the correct verbal cues without having to constantly look down or away from your audience.
Engage with your class
As a college student, being engaged in a class is difficult to achieve, especially with reduced bandwidth and little sleep. When you do, though, you can learn at a deeper level and apply that to your professional life later on. You should try to engage with your classmates as much as possible, and your professor hopes the same!
Work to bring your listeners in on your presentations. Ask for responses to what you give them, and challenge them to not just accept what you’re feeding them but to question and consider it for themselves. The more you are able to engage your classmates or students, the more they will internalize the material being presented to them, and the more likely it is they will look favorably on you and your course.
Practice active listening
Active listening is the practice of not only hearing the words of a presenter, but actively seeking to understand the meaning behind those words. It’s combining several of the tips mentioned previously in this article such as maintaining eye contact and understanding non-verbal communication to get a complete picture of what is being communicated.
For students, active listening means minimizing distractions and being fully present at the moment, focused on the class material. It’s interpreting body language, paraphrasing key points in your notes, and asking questions for clarification. For an instructor, active listening can give you insight into what topics you need to cover again.
A teleprompter app like VODIUM can help to aid active listening by feeding you your prepared script at a predetermined pace so you can concentrate on actively listening to your audience’s reactions rather than constantly referring to your notes.
Ask the right questions
This one is just as important for the faculty as it is for the student body. A college is a place to seek understanding and shape worldviews. It’s about asking questions and finding answers. To that point, questions can and will come up during presentations.
The trick, however, is to make sure that the questions you ask are on-point and related to the topic at hand. They should be asked with purpose, designed to either enhance your understanding or engage your audience and encourage participation.
Don’t allow yourself to ask pointless questions that have obvious answers. This is only going to promote times of awkward silence. Focus instead on questions that seek to draw out new information or bring your audience deeper into your material.
Don’t be afraid to clarify
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we fail in bringing our point across in a coherent and cohesive manner. Either we get distracted and our point gets lost, or we fail to prepare for an eventuality that rears its head, or maybe it was just an off-day and you hadn’t had your cup of coffee yet. Whatever the reason, when it becomes obvious that there is confusion or misunderstanding within your audience, you shouldn’t be hesitant to go back and clarify.
This goes for the audience members as well. If you are confused or uncertain of a certain point, it is vital that you reach out and request clarification. This can be applied to any circumstance from something as simple as misunderstanding expectations to confusion over the subject matter being presented.
A college is a place of learning and engagement, and if you find yourself confused as an audience member or noticing confusion as a presenter, you absolutely should take a moment to clarify or request clarification in order to better facilitate the kind of learning and understanding that educational institutions have.
VODIUM is your tool for communication in higher education
So much of our learning takes place in the virtual space these days, which is why using virtual tools such as VODIUM is an excellent way to enhance the learning experience. VODIUM allows you to take control of virtual presentations, maintaining focus and concentration on your audience through pre-written scripts and automated scrolling features that help maintain the pacing of your presentation.
Drop by our website and start your free trial today, and see how VODIUM can help enhance your virtual classroom whether you are a student presenter or a teaching professor!