Online meetings are here to stay. And we’re past the stage when they were just a novel chance to work in joggers. We’ve realised the positives that come with them: access, efficiency and convenience. But we need to make sure we can communicate as effectively in the Zoom or Teams room, as we do in person. Let’s look at a few areas that crop up again and again with our clients, and how a few small changes in your approach will bring out your confidence when connecting online.
1. Make A Conscious Choice On Eye Contact
Eye Contact is vital to delivering your message with impact and not using it can really make us appear under-confident or inauthentic. Online, there are two options on where you can focus your attention. Let’s think a bit about them…
Firstly, you can look into the eyes of your listeners. This will really help you through the ‘artificial’ feel of an online meeting as you get to deliver to a human and see their responses. Try to drag the participants’ window as close to the camera as possible so they can see your eyes clearly. If lots of people have cameras off, you could ‘pin’ someone with their camera on.
Secondly, you can deliver straight to the camera. In this way, you’re prioritising the listener’s experience as you will appear like you are giving direct eye contact to them. This can be tough for you to sustain though as the camera doesn’t really give much back!
You may want to use both versions: delivering mainly to your listeners but looking at the camera when you want to have the most impact. Try them out and see what works best for different types of meeting. What is most important, is that you’ve made a conscious choice before you start, to avoid being inconsistent or appearing hesitant as you speak.
2. Use Your Body
Think for a moment about how you sit during online meetings. How different is it from how you’d sit in a meeting room? Do you lean in? Do you use gesture?
A lot of people’s workspace setups have the camera purely framing their face so it is easy to think that the rest of the body can relax. No-one can see it anyway, right?
Wrong. They may not be able to see it, but you can feel it. If 80% of your body is feeding back to your brain that this is not an important situation, you’re making it very hard for yourself to feel empowered and confident when you speak. You’re having to fight that ‘relaxed’ feeling.
Try planting your feet on the floor, checking in on your posture and engaging your arms and hands in gesture. Widen the frame of your camera slightly, if possible so that more non-verbal communication can be received.
3. The Mute Button Is Not An ‘Off’ Button
The mute button is very practical: it means we don’t have to worry about the doorbell ringing, cat getting talkative or, in my case, my partner forgetting I’m in a meeting and reciting the shopping list. But the mute button is also dangerous…
It makes us feel like we can switch off, sit back and await our turn. The spotlight is firmly elsewhere. But when we disengage in this way, not only are we making it harder for the person speaking to really connect with us, but we are giving ourselves a harder task when we want to rejoin the conversation. We’re having to go from ‘off’ to ‘on’ very quickly.
Make an effort to actively listen when the microphone is elsewhere. Don’t sit back. Stay in the conversation and show it: nods, smiles, eye contact. Then when you want to chip in, it won’t feel as much of an intimidating leap, allowing you to speak more confidently. The other participants will also be appreciative of the effort you’re making and likely be more responsive to your ideas.
Give these three tips a go and let us know how you get on. We’d also love to hear any other bits of advice you have from your online experiences, which you can comment below.