In an effort to adapt to the new normal, businesses moved most of their operations virtual, including how they meet with their teams, stakeholders and clients. Downloads of video conferencing software and apps reached 62 million in mid March, which is the highest amount of downloads the virtual meeting industry has seen.
Even if you’ve now had three months of experience with video conferencing, you may still be getting used to the different verbal and non-verbal cues we all have to practise to keep video meetings and trainings engaging and clear.
Here are my top tips for nailing body language for presenters and listeners on video calls and conferences:
Framing your shot
My first tip is to frame up your shot correctly. Make sure you’re not speaking too close to the lens and crowding the frame, as that will make your listeners feel uncomfortable. On the other hand, you don’t want to be too far away from the lens, because that’s going to take away your presence. You want to achieve a comfortable medium shot (armpits to just above your head) with a clean, professional background. Place the lens at the level of your eyes, if not a bit above (don’t shoot up at yourself!). A professional-looking shot is going to make you look confident and give you a boost of presence before you’ve even spoken.
Posture says a lot
When presenting, try to maintain an upright posture, but make sure you don’t puff up your chest, or stick up your chin, or do anything that looks aggressive. That kind of thing will just put your listeners off. Keep your spine upright, but free of tension.
I like to coach people to think of their weight going slightly forward (on the balls of their feet if they’re standing, or on their “sit bones” if they’re sitting). It’s just a slight reminder to be physically engaged and present when you’re speaking.
Using hand gestures
Keep your gestures controlled and precise. If you feel self-conscious, like you don’t know what to do with your hands, you can hold your hands in a steeple shape in front of you (fingertips from both hands pressed gently together, making a sort of triangle). Think of this as your “home base”. From there, throw in a gesture every now and then… one per idea is a good rule of thumb.
Most importantly, SMILE. Your listeners want to feel like you enjoy speaking about your topic. If you don’t enjoy it, they won’t either!
Listen to understand
My biggest tip for listeners or participants is actually something I’ve been trying to get better at myself. Do you ever find yourself listening, but secretly, you’re really just thinking about what you’re going to say next? That’s usually the most common way to destroy your listening skills. It sounds basic, but when you’re listening, try and keep your focus solely on understanding the other person’s perspective.
Maintaining eye contact
Eye contact is another important aspect, especially when it comes to virtual/online communication. If you look away from the screen too often, the other person is going to think you’re checking your phone, or carrying on another conversation with someone in the room. Be respectful and engaged, and you’ll make the other person feel like a million bucks!
Presenters who look bored makes listeners even more so
When it comes to body language, the biggest thing to avoid is looking bored and unenthusiastic while you’re presenting. Don’t slouch, don’t sink into one hip, don’t mumble, don’t make eye contact with the floor, etc. You really want to think about projecting an image that looks engaged by and committed to what you’re saying. Show your listeners that you believe in what you’re saying and that you care about it, too.
Like any form of professional communication, practise makes perfect. With most businesses leveraging virtual meeting spaces right now, this is the perfect time to practise your non-verbal cues and body language so you’re prepared for the future of remote work.
Andrew Musselman has been performing all his life. Whether reciting stand-up comedy albums verbatim on Cub Scout camping trips, or doing Chris Farley imitations in the high school lunchroom, being in front of a crowd is his lifeblood. As a professional actor, his proudest moment was when the New York Times described his performance as “amply sleazy.” Andrew founded the company Fluency to empower people in all walks of life to speak with confidence, presence and authenticity. In the corporate world, Andrew has worked with globally recognized companies, such as Deloitte, CBRE and the Loblaw Companies. In the not-for-profit sector, he has led workshops for the Maytree Foundation, the Sustainability Network, Covenant House and Frontlines T.O. Before founding Fluency, Andrew taught and coached in high schools, universities and acting studios for over 15 years.