We all know there is more to effective communication than simply speaking clearly. Your facial expressions matter. The way you move (or don’t move) while you speak (or listen) conveys a great deal of information that adds subtle shades of meaning to verbal expression. And even though you might have mastered the use of silent cues to become an eminently effective communicator, transferring these skills to video conferencing involves a few tweaks you might want to consider.
If you want to use body language to communicate better, you’re going to want to leave some space between you and the camera. The standard head-and-shoulders framing to which most people default is not ideal for effective, full-body communication. So scoot your chair back a bit and don’t stop scooting until your many gesticulations and shrugs will show up on screen.
Good posture lets your listeners know you are alert and actively engaged, but maybe even more importantly, it can boost your own confidence and mental clarity. According to a study conducted by Richard Petty, a psychology professor at Ohio State, maintaining “confident, upright posture gave [students] more confidence in their own thoughts.” So if you not only want to project confidence but actually feel it, keep that back straight.
Eye contact is a no-brainer, right? But video conferencing complicates this most basic aspect of effective communication. To appear as if you are making eye contact via video conferencing, you have to look directly at the camera. Your first impulse will be to meet the gaze of the person on screen, but if you do this, you will actually appear to them as if you are looking down. Just remember: look into the camera as often as possible. Ideally, you’ll develop a rhythm that allows you to jump back and forth between the camera and the screen in a way that appears natural and casual.
It happens to all of us. We get a little bit flustered, maybe a tad bit bored or nervous. Our thoughts either wander into a daydream or zero in on a single bothersome spot in our brains. Whatever the case, our body responds to our distracted mental state with its favorite coping mechanism: the nervous tic. Maybe you play with your hair. Or rub your chin. Or twirl your mustache. Which is perfectly okay! But remember that you’re not in a conference room. People aren’t only looking at the speaker. You’re likely on screen too, even when you’re not the primary focus. Those nervous (or bored or agitated) tics create visual noise that it will be difficult for people to ignore. So try to remain as physically neutral as possible, even if you’re a little bored.
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