The wonderful thing about video conferencing is that you can form meaningful connections with people through dynamic face-to-face interactions even if your thousands of miles away. However, if you don’t pay careful attention to your body language, you might convey some meanings that you didn’t intend. According to Psychology Today, “55 percent of communication is body language, 38 percent is the tone of voice, and 7 percent is the actual words spoken.” In order to help you be as comfortable and confident on video as a Hollywood star, we’ve rounded up several tips and insights from leading body language scientists and experts.
#1: Strike a Pose
Over 41,500,000 people have watched Amy Cuddy’s TED talk regarding how body language can impact your personal and professional success. Cuddy, a social scientist and Harvard professor said, “Social scientists have spent a lot of time looking at the effects of our body language, or other people’s body language, on judgments. And we make sweeping judgments and inferences from body language. And those judgments can predict really meaningful life outcomes, like who we hire or promote.” Cuddy purports that putting your body into a position of power by making yourself big, stretching out, and taking up space can actually make you feel more powerful and cause others to perceive you as both confident and capable. In her research, she found that taking one of five power positions and holding it for two minutes before meeting with people will increase testosterone levels (energy and mood-boosting hormone), decrease cortisol levels (stress hormone) and lead people to judge you more positively. The next time you have an important video conference, find a private space, like a bathroom stall or stairwell, and strike a power pose before your meeting. Then, knock ‘em dead with your palpable power and confidence.
#2: Sit-Up Straight
A recent Forbes article stated that good posture sends nonverbal signals of energy, enthusiasm, and health. Conversely, poor posture makes people appear uninterested, uncertain, or lethargic. When it comes to posture during a video meeting, typically only your body from the waist up is visible, which is by no means a hall pass to jiggle your legs or indulge in other behaviors that may inadvertently rock your body and distract viewers. Carol Kinsey Goman, author of “The Nonverbal Advantage: Body Language at Work” recommends people in a video conference, “Sit up straight, put both feet on the floor, then take a deep breath and exhale through your mouth to relax your neck and throat.” By sitting taller, your image will take up more space on the screen and your voice will project better, enabling everyone to hear you clearly when you speak. An article in Inc. maintains that when a person leans back in their chair away from the camera it conveys to viewers that they are bored and disconnected from what is being discussed. Thus, in addition to sitting up straight you want to lean forward slightly to the camera to convey you are fully present. Cuddy maintains that, “Posture not only shapes the way we feel, it also shapes the way we think about ourselves—from our self-descriptions to the certainty and comfort with which we hold them. And those self-concepts can either facilitate or hinder our ability to connect with others, to perform our jobs, and, more simply, to be present.”
#3: Smile, You’re On Camera
Allan and Barbara Pease, who wrote “The Definitive Book of Body Language” recommend people project a warm and non-threatening persona by smiling when meeting people. For example, whether you are talking to an old client or meeting with a new employee via video, take a moment to look into the camera, smile and greet the person at the beginning of the meeting. The Pease’s state that the simple act of smiling will generate positive feelings toward you from your counterpart and help to build a trusting relationship. They also found that smiling during a meeting helps it run more smoothly and have more positive outcomes. In general, the Pease’s recommend that you smile as often as the other people in the video conference since mirroring other people’s nonverbal behavior is one way we show them that we are not only listening, but understanding them. Smiling too often or faking a smile makes people appear insecure and less credible; however, not smiling at all makes a person appear cold and stand-offish.
#4: Arm Yourself With Confidence
Talking with your hands is a smart way to show people you are passionately engaged in the subject you are talking about, and being passionately engaged is kind of a big deal. Lakshmi Balachandra, a Professor at Babson College and expert in business negotiations conducted a study that analyzed the verbal and nonverbal behavior videos of 185 venture capital presentations. She found that the strongest predictor of who was awarded money was not a person’s credentials or their pitch content, but their confidence and passionate enthusiasm. To make sure you are using your hands and arms to your advantage during a video meeting, Goman says that when not using them to gesture, place them on the table “about 8 to 10 inches in front of your torso so people can see them. Keep them relaxed and separated. Don’t hang onto the edge of the table, or you will look desperate. Don’t play with your pen or shuffle papers.” If you are in the habit of crossing your arms, try to refrain from doing so because research shows crossed arms encourage others to think critical thoughts toward you. It also makes you appear unapproachable.
#5: About Face
Research by the University of Cambridge found that when nervous, people tend to comfort themselves by engaging in an array of unsightly face-touching behaviors, from smoothing their eyebrows and tugging at earlobes, to itching their nose or chewing on their lower lip. If these are guilty pleasures you have a habit of indulging in, stop it. On camera in a meeting they make you appear insecure, incompetent, and to some it may even appear that you are lying – yikes! To put your best face forward, close your mouth and keep the corners of your lips slightly upturned to avoid appearing frowny-faced, raise your eyebrows slightly upward in interest, and nod your head periodically to reinforce to viewers that you hear them and are listening well.
Set Yourself Up for Success with Highfive
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