I don’t know about you but many of my clients are getting virtual fatigue as they move from one meeting to another unaware if they are really making the impact they want and fully landing their message.
I thought I would put together my top 10 tips on what you can do to increase your presence online.
Yes, I know you are at home but do bear in mind that whilst you have let someone into your personal space, it is your professional presence that you want them to remember. Avoid bedrooms; keep your background clutter free, clean and neutral. You want people to focus on you and not the backdrop. Wear clothes that are appropriate to your job or brand. Everything about you should signal you are the expert and ready to work.
Be conscious that you need good natural light so people can see you and read your facial expressions and behaviour. Ensure the light is not behind you but is coming in from the side or in front of you.
Be aware of the space between yourself and the screen. If you are too close to the screen, people will feel that you are in their space. It will feel as if you are enlarged and your presence can feel overwhelming. If you sit too far away, it will appear as if you are disengaged or hiding. Ensure you are around 2-2.5 feet away from the screen so we can see your head and shoulders. This will allow you to inhabit that space with presence.
4. Eye Contact
Eye contact is an essential part of virtual communication. If you look directly at the light on your camera, you will be making full eye contact with your audience. It works perfectly if you’re delivering a presentation and do not have a live group of people in front of you. However, when you are speaking with an individual or group on Zoom, Teams etc., it is important to read their reaction. What I suggest is ensuring that your laptop is positioned so your eye level is in line with the camera on your computer and that you drag the person or people on screen as close to the camera as is possible. I do this by reducing the full screen. This will enable you to keep your awareness on the camera but equally read their facial expression and body language and respond to it accordingly.
Resist the urge to multi task when you on a virtual meeting. The smaller the group, the easier it is to pick up any distraction. So avoid looking away from the camera, reading e-mails, checking your phone, fidgeting or letting your eyes wander. It says, “I am not present”, “something else is more important than you” or “I don’t want to be here”. The stiller and more focused you are, the more gravitas and impact you will have.
6. Facial Expression
Because the camera picks up on everything, having a poker face can make you appear distant, cold and uninterested. A soft smile when communicating or listening suggests warmth and helps others connect and relate to you. It is important that your face is alive and reflects your message appropriately.
Your body creates an instant impression. How you sit in your chair is essential. Watch you don’t slouch, lean back or cross arms and legs so that you shrink rather than own your space. Sit on your sitting bones. Keep both feet planted on the ground and allow your spine to fully lengthen upwards like a puppet pulled up on a string. An open, relaxed and aligned spine is not only great for your posture and core muscles but communicates confidence, presence and personal power.
You voice will tell us if you are credible and have authority. You will need to use more volume than you think. This will involve breathing more deeply from your diaphragm (belly and ribs) so your voice has energy and power. I appreciate this may feel strange in your room but it communicates gravitas and strength. With increased volume, a measured pace and the use of pause, you will be able to capture the attention of others, interject where necessary and land your point with impact. This will take practise, especially if you have a tendency to mumble or speak softly.
Whilst I always encourage my clients to use gesture naturally when they speak, be careful that your hands do not dominate or come too close to the screen. They can take over and distract from your message. Ensure your hands are kept mid plane and your gestures are subtle and effective.
10. Listen to build rapport
Listening is a very big part of communication. If you show that you are actively listening and are genuinely interested in what the other person has to say, you will find it much easier to build relationships on this virtual platform. It also helps the speaker to feel heard. The appropriate use of a nod or smile goes a long way in building rapport.
Enjoy experimenting and playing with these tips. I look forward to hearing how you get on.