Recent research conducted by Quantified Impressions, a communications-analytics firm, found that 90% of listeners’ first impressions of a speaker remain unchanged after hearing the content of his or her message. Noah Zandan, President of Quantified Impressions said, “People rely on nonverbal cues such as posture and eye contact to evaluate others very quickly after an initial meeting, forming a first impression within 15 to 20 seconds.”
Although 20 seconds may not seem like a fair amount of time, you can prepare yourself to be well-received by others during video meetings by spending a little time beforehand mastering the art of your body language. Getting comfortable on camera doesn’t require that you become a professional actor or spokesperson; however, there are a few tips you can take from their training to ensure the message your body is sending is in alignment with the message you want to convey. Below, we’ve gathered seven body language tips you can take now to put your best ‘foot’ forward the next time you’re on video.
1. Walk it out
Speaking in front of peers is an activity that can bring anxiety, and anxiety causes people to display nervous behaviors through their body language. When your audience picks up on your anxiety, it causes them to feel anxious too, and results in an atmosphere of negative tension. If you find yourself feeling anxious when you know that you will have to present at a meeting, you can reduce those feelings simply by taking a 15-minute walk before the meeting. According to the public speaking organization, Toastmasters International, moderate exercise, such as walking, will burn off cortisol, the stress hormone that is released by the body when people feel anxious. Another reason it’s smart to get rid of cortisol before you speak is that it limits creativity and impairs your ability to process complex information.
2. Breathe deep
A common trick professional singers use to control their voice, reduce stress, and relax is to take deep breaths. A quiet exercise that no one need be aware you are doing, breathing deep has many benefits. When you focus on your breathing, it helps to center your body and project an aura of calm and confidence. Breathing out releases tension and enables you to appear grounded and composed before your audience, which is vital to your mission of being seen as someone who has something important to say. Lastly, taking deep breaths before speaking allows you to speak in even tones, which are more pleasing to your listener’s ears.
3. Straighten up
Remember how mom always told you to sit up straight at the dinner table? It turns out her advice is equally valid at the conference table. Good posture brings your body in alignment, enables muscles and organs to function more efficiently, and projects authority and confidence to everyone around you. Conversely, poor posture and slumping project depression, lack of confidence, and incompetence to your peers. To ensure your posture projects a positive image, follow these body language tips:
– Hold your head up and in a neutral position with your ears in line with your shoulders.
– Take a deep breath, open your chest, and relax your shoulders.
– Radiate confidence like an A-list celebrity.
4. Give ’em a hand
There are many important reasons to use your hands when speaking according to Dr. Carol Kinsey Goman, body language expert and author of The Nonverbal Advantage: Secrets and Science of Body Language at Work. “Hand gestures are a powerful aspect of communication, from both the speaker’s and the listener’s end,” said Goman. Her research reveals that gesturing while talking increases a person’s ability to think, form clearer thoughts, and speak more succinctly, which are important to being perceived positively. Gestures also help others understand not only what you are trying to say, but how you feel about the subject, too.
According to research reported in Forbes, people who use their hands when talking are more likely to be viewed as warm, agreeable and energetic. On the other hand, the study found, “When leaders let their hands hang limply to the side, hide them in pockets or clasp their hands in front of their bodies in the classic “fig leaf” position, it suggests they don’t recognize the crucial issues, they have no emotional investment in the issues, or they don’t realize the impact of their nonverbal behavior on the audience.”
5. Look ’em in the eye
We’ve all had the experience of trying to tell someone something important, only to become frustrated by their lack of eye contact. When people in a meeting make little eye contact it is perceived by others as timid and insecure behavior at best, and a character trait of liars and the disinterested at worst. In other words, even if you’re shy, make yourself look people in the eye when either of you are talking. According to Goman, business people in America, Europe and Asia expect talkers and speakers to make eye contact 50 to 60 percent of the time. If you are afraid of appearing to be staring at someone, Goman says a good measure for appropriate eye contact is to look at someone just long enough to notice what color their eyes are before looking away.
Making eye contact in a video meeting requires making a habit of looking directly at the camera and at the screen. A good rule of thumb is to look at the screen when others are talking and look directly at the camera when you are talking. By getting in the habit of switching between camera and screen, you simulate natural eye contact and create an atmosphere where people feel recognized, heard and understood.
6. Dress for success
In order for people to read your body language well, it’s important to dress in a manner that is not distracting. While that advice may seem obvious, it is critical to creating a great impression via video, where patterned clothing can create annoying blur effects. Newscasters, talk show hosts, and other on-screen regulars know that the translation of an image from camera to screen can create issues when it comes to clothing, which is why most typically wear solid colors and muted patterns when being filmed. To ensure you look your best on a video conference, refrain from wearing bold stripes, polka dots and other busy patterns. Certain colors should be avoided as well, such as neons and other brights. As comedian Billy Crystal used to say in his SNL skit, Fernando’s Hideaway, “It is better to look good than to feel good, darling.”
Prepare for your close-up
The easiest way to look great during a video conference is to begin by using Highfive. Highfive’s all-in-one video conferencing solution feature HD video and audio so you can connect with everyone face-to-face, and see and hear your team members with ease. To enjoy a dynamic and immersive video experience every time, give yourself a Highfive.