Meeting after meeting after meeting fill my calendar; both in the past and in the future. Unfortunately, these meetings are no longer in person, but online by way of Zooming, Skyping, Vidyoing, etc.
Having a video meeting with one person is very different than having an online meeting with a group of people. When they are one-on-one, it is very easy to make eye contact or pay attention to one’s body language. However, in a group setting, I find it difficult to not shuffle through the view screens in an attempt to make eye contact with one attendee or another knowing full well they have no clue I am looking at them. It is also difficult to read one’s audience when being the speaker.
What I have noticed among meeting-goers is body language. Over the past few months, I have co-hosted several group meetings with many of the same attendees. During one of these meetings, a personal, highly emotional story came out that was followed by myriad questions from several of the audience members.
Although the questions were not of the uncomfortable type, the responses brought on many opinions. Some of those opinions were found to be offensive or different than that of the presenter. As her inner emotions and opinions were being peeled back like an onion, her body language began to change. Her reaction became more and more evident as the minutes went by, and I wondered if others noticed.
Fast Company shared statistics from well-known research that state 55% of communication comes from body language, 38% is in the tone of voice, and 7% is in the actual spoken words. Experts agree that body language and tone of voice play a significant role in how messages are received and how one is perceived.
If you are presenting or partaking in a video style meeting, here are a few tips to keep yourself focused and professional.
Pay attention to your posture! Whether you are leading a conference call or attending one with only occasionally speaking, your body posture matters. When you have good posture, you feel stronger, more alert and more at ease. Put your feet on the floor, sit up straight, and put your camera on your head and shoulders. I have personally observed meeting attendees laying down, lounging on the couch with their laptop on their chest, or in a car. Clearly, posture is not top-of-mind for everyone.
Breathe! If your posture is good, then breathing becomes easier. It is shown that breathing deeply and methodically affects one’s stress level in a positive manner. So, if these video meetings make you nervous, don't forget to breathe!
Eye contact, although difficult, is powerful. During some of the meetings I have attended, I will private message someone to say I am looking at them, so they look up and make eye contact briefly. That quick smile and acknowledgment builds the social bonding and trust level. Lack of confidence is conveyed when eye contact is avoided.
One must be mindful of facial expressions when video meeting! This cannot be stressed enough. Do not make faces that show disgust or anger in what is being said by others. Likewise, laughing at what another said is just as disrespectful if done in jest. Let your face and shoulders remain as neutral as possible.
Lastly, an easy one, speak up! People need to hear you, so get close to your microphone and speak loudly. Nothing is more frustrating that seeing a mouth moving and not hearing the words.
Oh, one other thing . . . be on time!
Kristen Asleson is owner of Midwest Virtual Assistants. Send comments and ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.Kristen Asleson is owner of Midwest Virtual Assistants. Send comments and ideas to email@example.com.