One of the challenges of building a successful team when members are not physically in the same office or the same country is the lack of physical cues observed in the form of body language. But today, the workplace is more distributed and mobile than ever, especially with the global pandemic. So, here are some of the effective non-verbal communications you can use for your virtual meetings.
Sit up straight
Communications consultant Dr. Lillian Glass said via job search and expert network The Ladders that slouching conveys that a person is not competent or is a slob compared to those who sit straight. There is likely no mannerism that is as distracting as fidgeting, whether you are playing with objects on the table, bouncing your knee, or twirling a lock of hair during the video conference. Glass added that fidgeting too much makes a person appear nervous and disinterested. These behaviors become more obvious during a virtual meeting.
Begin with a smile
Every scowl, frown, purse, and eye-roll will be amplified, so begin with a smile. If you are talking with your clients, this is all the more reason you should set them at ease by beginning the meetings with a smile. It will impact your appearance and tone. It doesn’t need to be a big grin but a disarming and quiet smile that will help forge a connection to the other members attending the virtual meetings.
Mirror and match
While you are talking, pay close attention to the body language of the other people. It will help increase their confidence if you follow their lead with your movements. For example, if the other person is reserved and quiet, you can relax your tone of voice to also show that you are on the same wavelength.
Uncross your arms
The fastest way to appear disinterested in the topic is to cross your arms. People are wired to respond to social cues and crossing your arms while talking makes the other person feel the social pain. It signals to them that you do not want to talk to them, which is not great for virtual meetings. As much as possible, maintain expressive and open movements that invite collaborative communication.
Avoid tensing up
In virtual meetings, people see each other in close-up. So, gestures, facial expressions, and posture become more important than the physical meeting. Body language expert Pati Wood said that when you look tense, others will have a difficult time reading you and you may easily be misinterpreted. Others may think that you don’t like them and this is not good for your career. Wood said that although it is okay to appear tense sometimes, do not do it too much because it will affect how others perceive you.
If their cortisol level is high, people’s gestures and facial expressions can be rigid and it may interfere with their ability to collaborate and connect with others. The key is to demonstrate confidence and presence.
Make appropriate eye contact
Eye contact is an important element in building trust. It shows respect, confidence, and understanding. All these three are essentials in terms of business relationship success. So, focus your gaze on the screen or the camera and make plenty of eye contact. This also means putting your phone down during a virtual meeting even if the camera is not turned on.
Promise yourself that even if your colleagues or manager cannot see you during the virtual meeting, you should still put your phone down. Making a great impression and people management are a big part of your career. Glass added that staring at the floor and holding down your chin makes one appear insecure and sad. It also displays a lack of confidence.
Andy Molinsky, a professor of Organizational Behavior at the Brandeis International Business School and author of Global Dexterity and Reach, highlighted the importance of conveying warmth and presence online. He said that as a professor, he grapples with the challenges of presenting and teaching online in a Covid-19 world. Because he already had experience facilitating online teaching before the health crisis, he understands that some people need preparation time to feel presentable and comfortable on video. So, he adopts an active and engaging persona. He also encourages an occasional laugh and the use of engaging tone.
Video chat apps: global download
The way people work and meet has changed tremendously in the past few months alone. At the beginning of 2020, the video conferencing platform Zoom saw 200 million daily meeting participants on average. Mobile data intelligence Priori Data likewise shares that global downloads for Zoom, Houseparty, and Skype each surged by more than 100% in March. Zoom is particularly more popular among people meeting up virtually while they are confined to their homes.
In January, Zoom was downloaded 2.1 million times but it rose to 26.9 million downloads in March. While Zoom is the rising star, Skype is still far ahead in terms of active users. The Microsoft-owned app had 59.1 million daily active users in March, Zoom had 4.3 million, and Houseparty 0.1 million. Houseparty is a popular face to face social network that allows friends to talk and play games even if they are not physically together. Global downloads of Houseparty for Android and iOS in March 2020 reached 5.1 million while Skype downloads reached 6.2 million.
Meanwhile, independent software review platform Finances Online shared the top videoconferencing benefits: reduce travel (46%), save time (33%), reduce costs (2%), improved collaboration (19%), improve work and life balance (8%), and recording and archiving (2%). The global video conferencing market size is expected to reach $6.4 billion this year and by 2023, it will expand further to reach $13.82 billion.
Learning how to read nonverbal cues during virtual meetings can help managers better engage with their remote employees. This is because when virtual workers are heard, valued, and seen just like when working in an office setting, their contributions will have long-term impacts on the company. Email etiquette is another thing to keep in mind.
These are the few ways you can communicate through your body language while working remotely. So, remember to be friendly but, most importantly, be yourself.