Updated: Feb 7
Video conferencing has quickly become the new normal for meetings, conversations and training. So it’s important to remember the powerful impact of your body’s language and how this effects how others perceive you.
Recently we have been using a variety of online platforms to deliver training, hold meetings and film “how to” videos with our team. We created a guide to online meeting etiquette and while doing so, learnt a great deal about the importance of how to present in these forums.
Many of the non-verbal cues we unconsciously pick up face-to-face have been limited, simply because we can’t see as much of their body. Equally many of the cues we offer now need to be heightened to ensure that your messages of warmth, empathy and inclusiveness are received.
Some other things we have learnt:
Backgrounds: How many of us have become fascinated with the backgrounds of interviewees, celebrities and anyone now presenting from home? An ‘expert’ with a very messy bookcase lost all creditability with me. Even though I was aware of my bias, how could they possibility be an expert if he couldn’t even sort out his bookcase! Consider where you ‘meet’ from.
Costume: Make a choice about your outfit. What does it say about you? In April and May many tended to wear T-shirts and casual clothes – giving off a relaxed vibe. More recently we have seen a move to more formal attire (even if it’s only on the top half) as we move back to normality and reintroduce our ‘professionalism’.
Posture: We know good upright posture sends signals of energy and interest. Poor slouching posture sends signals of uncertainty and disinterest. Carol Kinsey Goman in “The Nonverbal Advantage: Body language at work” says: when video conferencing people should sit up straight, put both feet on the floor, then take a deep breath and exhale through your mouth to relax your mouth and throat. In addition, by sitting up straighter your image will take up more space in the screen and your lungs can take in more air so your voice will be clearer, and projection will increase.
Facial Movements: Research by University of Cambridge found that when nervous, people tend to touch their faces more often. This can range from straightening your eyebrows to chewing on your lips to stroking your nose. These behaviors are magnified on camera and can lead to you being seen less competent. When on camera consider closing your mouth with your lips slightly upturned, raise your eyebrows and nod periodically to indicate interest. Smiling is an essential ingredient to appearing warm and non-threatening. It is no different on camera but keep in mind that too much smiling may appear fake and less credible, just as too little might appear cold and stand-offish. Monitor yourself against the others on screen. A smiley group will promote smiles.
Body Language: Think about how you react in the moment. In the online environment you lose many of your non-verbal cues, so it’s important that you become skilled in how to convey the message you want. Wait a few beats after speaking to allow others to absorb what you have said (this allows for any technical hiccups or delays too). Lean forward when someone else is speaking – to show interest. Most importantly stay focused – don’t get distracted with things on your desk, your computer or surroundings.
We are all learning a lot about online meetings, they have fast become a normal part of our daily interaction. Let’s get the most out of them and remember the importance of developing positive relationships.