It’s common knowledge that body language or nonverbal communication makes up a majority of how we’re perceived by others in a conversation—some studies suggest up to 95%! With more and more people conducting meetings, interviews, and other important business conversations online and through video conferencing, many forget how important body language is, even if it’s through a screen.
Whether you’re a conference call host or a participant, you can improve your web conference experience and your quality of communication with others just by paying attention to your own body language on your webcam. Here are a few things to focus on.
By now you have heard how eye contact can be the single best way to make a positive impression on another person while you’re speaking to him or her. Whether or not you already make good eye contact in person, a video conference poses its own unique set of challenges.
For one, where are you supposed to look? There’s no way to really look into someone else’s eyes on a video conference. You may be tempted to look at your own video, or other video feeds and components of a web conference going on at the same time as someone is speaking. Are you supposed to look at a speaker’s video, or at your device’s camera so that it looks more like you’re making eye contact with them?
We recommend looking at the video feed of the person who’s talking or who you’re talking to so it feels to you like you’re really making eye contact with them. If you are able to do so, try repositioning the video or the window that your web conference service is in so that the speaker’s video appears at the top of your screen, closest to your device’s camera. That way, he or she will perceive more direct eye contact from your gaze toward the camera.
If you are speaking or presenting to an audience that sees you but you can’t see any of them, just make sure you are looking up and toward the camera on whatever device is recording you. Avoid looking down at notes or shifting your gaze around the room or out of the area that your audience can see.
Posture is a particularly important component of body language on a video conference, as it’s usually just your upper body that’s shown to others on camera. You should be sitting up straight to convey interest and engagement, but not rigid enough that it looks unnatural.
Try focusing on keeping your shoulders back and down your body to maintain good posture. You can even lean slightly toward the camera to show engagement, but make sure you are not rounding your back over in the process. Sitting up tall helps show your confidence and interest, but also naturally projects your voice better.
You should always test your video to make sure it’s working before you join a web conference. While you do this, check how your body appears in the frame. Is the camera on the device you’re using pointed down at you, making you look smaller or more hunched? Is it pointing up and distorting your proportions? Make any adjustments you can so that your face and upper body appear straight on, centered, and proportionate in the video frame.
Use your hands
Don’t be afraid to use your hands to gesture while you speak on a video conference. While many people try to quell this habit because they think it’s distracting, the truth is it’s beneficial to how you’re perceived while you’re speaking.
On a video conference, talking with your hands helps convey enthusiasm and animation, but it can also help you focus your thoughts and speech better than if you keep your hands still. This means you can express the content of your conference call more succinctly and effectively.
When you’re not gesturing with your hands, simply let them rest in your lap or on the desk or table in front of you. You can even try mirroring the movements of your fellow speaker’s hands and body, which can help them feel more at ease.
Make sure you don’t cross your arms, as this typically conveys being closed off, tired, or bored. Also ensure that your hands or arms aren’t blocking your face, shuffling papers, or moving any other items offscreen.
Control your facial expressions
In addition to eye contact, the rest of your face tells a distinct story to those watching you on a video conference. You want to make sure that story is positive, friendly, and lines up with what you have to say. And perhaps even more important is your facial expression while listening to others speak, so pay attention to your facial features even in passive moments.
To appear friendly, receptive, and engaged, maintain a small smile and gently raised eyebrows, which will open and widen your eyes. A smile showing teeth and a laugh at genuine moments of humor or pleasure can show that you are truly enjoying the conversation and set others at ease.
Try not to force a smile at all times; focus instead on keeping a pleasantly neutral face at moments when you may not be the center of attention. It might go without saying, but you should suppress a frown, a blank stare, a yawn, or other negative expressions, even when some animosity or boredom comes up.
If you can’t hide an extreme body or facial reaction—like crying or a fit of coughing or sneezing, for example—acknowledge it and apologize to the other participants on your call. If you are not the main speaker, politely excuse yourself and turn off your video or audio until you can compose yourself and rejoin the conference. Do whatever is in your power to make this transition as easy and subtle as possible.
We hope you’ll keep these tips in mind the next time you appear on a web conference with video. Just like an in-person company meeting or conversation, body language can make or break your success as a communicator. With a little extra focus, you can start making a positive and lasting impression with employees, clients, and more. Contact us at Conference Calls Unlimited if you’d like to learn more about our web conferencing services.