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Nonverbal Communication Cues To Feel More Human on Video PT. 3 - Tone

Part Three - A Note About Tone

This post is part of a larger series on nonverbal communication cues for video.

As referenced in this article on Slack-splaining, tone is one of the most missed cues in our professional written communication. 

On video - we can cut right to the chase, and ensure clarity of messaging through our nonverbal communication. In much the same way as with your body language, the following vocal cues provide you with many options to try out, depending on what feels right to you, for the moment at hand. 

The star players of vocal cues are:  

  • Intonation 

  • Speech Speed

  • Pausing

  • Filler Words

  • Uptick

On video, just as we discussed in this article on body language cues (link to second article in series), the way we deliver our words should reflect our intention behind them. When we take up space with our words and leverage different intonation, we demonstrate confidence and help keep our audience engaged. 

Intonation and Uptick

There is a reason we tend to ‘tune out’ those who stick to one frequency (monotony) when they are talking. Our brains have registered the sound, and immediately lowers it in priority. As a speaker, this is the last thing we want!

A word of caution! You want to take note that your intonation variation is not coming at the end of a statement or sentence with what we call ‘uptick’ or ‘upspeak’. A statement is not a question, and you want to finish statements with vocal finality, not suggesting doubt or a lack of confidence. 

Check out this short video on the difference between intonation and uptick.

Speech Speed and Pausing

On video, we tend to miss out on the cues (both verbal and nonverbal) we are used to having from our audience. So it can be helpful to think about our speech speed, and our use of pauses. 

From the perspective of authority, taking up space with our words contrasts with rushing. Like our posture, we can confidently allow our words to be spoken, heard and digested. Especially if we are talking about something technical or highly specialized it can feel like you want to rush through it. Don’t be afraid to take a little more time than you might normally!)

From the perspective of engagement and delivering messages that land - we can use pauses to great effect! Did you just make a point you want your audience to retain? Try pausing for a moment. 

Check out some effective pausing in action here:

Filler Words 

Filler words are one of the most popular vocal cues professionals work hard to eradicate. There are many tools to help count your filler words, but what about reducing them? 

In a holistic sense, you can start by replacing filler words with a breath and a pause. We tend to fill silences with noise which can be a strategy if you are trying not to be interrupted. However, in asynchronous communication, filler words can actually lead to your audience quickly hitting ‘stop’ on the video recording itself. 

You have the power of re-recording. Work on your delivery so that it comes out sounding natural, varied in tone, speed and leveraging pauses instead of filler words. 

See if you can spot the difference in overall tone and energy when I use filler words, compared to when I don’t. (Keeping in mind, sometimes filler words are ok!)

When all of this is paired with powerful body language presence and a thoughtful setup…well,  your videos will be irresistible!

In closing out this series, it bears remembering - there is no ‘perfect’ way of showing up on video, but there are often things we can choose to do more of, or less of, depending on what our intention is, and the context behind our communication.  

For more nonverbal communication and guidance on communicating effectively in our new world of work, follow Virtual Sapiens. And if you are curious to see how people may be perceiving you on video - try out a free assessment here!

Read the rest of this series:


Oct 26, 2022

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  • Rachel Cossar

    Co-Founder/CEO @ VirtualSapiens