Body Language Hacks for Videoconferencing
When you start working remotely, one of the most common forms of communication you’ll have to master (besides e-mail) is the video meeting. This technology is one of the main reasons companies have become so accepting of telecommuting.
The downside of changing technology is the growing number of customs for different media: How formal should I be if I text a client? Can I Skype from my couch? The questions are endless.
Video meetings aren’t the same as physical meetings, so different body language rules apply. Becoming proficient at this new etiquette will put you at an advantage compared to your remote colleagues and competitors.
Practicing these tips below will help you look professional and engaged in any videoconferencing situation:
Check Your Posture
After sitting at a desk all day, we all forget to sit up straight. It isn’t just bad for your back and neck, it also has a negative effect on your confidence. Before your meeting, stand up and put your hands on your hips and push your chest out like Superwoman. Professor Amy Cuddy’s research at Harvard University made headlines when she showed that ‘high power’ poses like these increased confidence and the ability to handle stress.
Once the meeting starts, however, keep your body size neutral. Puffing yourself up can be seen as an attempt to dominate – it’s what animals do when they are chasing off predators. On the other hand, making yourself small implies fear and helplessness. Instead, lean forward to show that you’re interested and open to what the speaker is saying.
No Grand Gestures
Find a middle ground between animated gestures and no gestures at all. Too much gesturing can be distracting or will make you look unprepared if it’s unnatural or erratic.
Keep your hands from fidgeting and away from your face. Dr. Paul Ekman, an expert in emotion and facial expressions, refers to these as ‘manipulators’. Touching your face or rubbing your arm are self-comforting gestures that make others feel distrustful.
Use your hands purposefully in a controlled manner, when you want to illustrate a point, for example. Open gestures make you seem relaxed and open; if a topic is closed to discussion, make sure your palms are facing down.
Look Them In The Eye
When meeting in person, you know to keep eye contact when having a conversation. This becomes a little more confusing in a videoconference. If you want to maintain eye contact, look at the camera instead of their picture.
You’ll be able to hold their attention more effectively while looking comfortable in front of the camera. When they are speaking, it’s fine to look at the screen to see what they are doing.
Be Aware Of Your Face
Body language was the way we communicated before humanity developed the capacity for language. Researchers in British Columbia found that Paralympian athletes who were born blind were able to perform the same fundamental facial and body expressions as those who can see. It supported the theory that these actions are innate and cross-cultural, meaning they can be understood by anyone who can see.
Smile naturally. It changes the sound of your voice to make you sound warm and friendly. Frowning and furrowing your eyebrows, however, makes you sound irritated and look confused or in disagreement.
Casually nod while you speak if you want someone to agree with you. If they nod too, you learn two things: one, they are mirroring your body language so they probably like you; two, they will be more likely to agree with you.
There are a lot of things to think about during a video meeting, so the key is practice. Practice in front of a mirror or with friends and you’ll see that these skills will come naturally. With humans processing 90% of our information through visual stimuli, it’s essential to say right things and look good saying them.