By Hollace S. Masino

Instructional Designer

Due to COVID-19, remote work remains a necessity for many, not a choice. That said, it may surprise you to learn that according to a survey conducted by Global Workplace Analytics, a research and consulting firm, 76% of the workforce wants to continue to work from home after the pandemic subsides.1

Thankfully, more than any time in history, we have tools in place that enable us to effectively communicate—and collaborate—with our colleagues and clients while working remotely. Virtual meeting technology is chief among these. Unlike email or texts, virtual meetings provide an opportunity to communicate through the subtle and often subconscious social cues2 that foster trust and strengthen relationships. 

In fact, understanding how to optimally leverage virtual meeting technology is fast becoming an essential skill. The tips below provide easy-to-adopt—though often overlooked—steps that you can implement to build trust and make a stronger impression during your next virtual meeting. 

1. Spruce up your space
Be mindful of your background: your conference space should be one that is tidy and conveys ease and professionalism. Reducing clutter puts you at ease and reduces distractions for both you and your viewers, who see everything in the frame. Limit the objects in view behind you to plants, books, and a single piece of art or furniture (other than a bed) so meeting participants stay focused on you, what you have to say, and how you say it. 

2.  Frame yourself 
Your proximity to the camera is important. Frame yourself in the video so you’re not too close or too far from the camera. Up-close views tend to exaggerate your facial expressions and gestures while faraway views tend to make you appear less engaged. A good rule of thumb is to raise the camera so it’s just above eye level and captures the area slightly above your head to just above your waist. Keep a video window of yourself open so you can occasionally glance at it to see how you look to your viewers. 

3. Keep your presence professional 
Professional clothing in solids, pastels, or bright colors make a good impression, while white tends to reflect too much light and patterns can be distracting. Even though the camera frame stops at your waist, make sure to put your pants on! You’ll feel and behave more professionally, and there’s no chance for some of the “bloopers” you may have witnessed on social media. 

When you’re not talking, mute yourself in case excited pets and children come bounding into audio range during your call.

4. Use body language to communicate openly
To convey you are comfortable and confident:

  • Sit up tall with both feet on the floor, without being stiff.
  • Relax your face, head, neck, and throat.
  • Avoid dramatic gestures and facial expressions.
  • When gesturing with your hands, show your palms to create a sense of openness. 
  • When not gesturing, rest your hands on your desk—don’t clench or fidget.    

Also, when you’re talking, look at the camera to maintain “eye contact” with your viewers. Research shows eye contact not only increases connection and trust, which enhances professional relationships, but it also increases your viewer’s retention of what you are saying.3 Glancing away occasionally is fine—for example, when you are looking at someone else speaking—but constantly reading from notes on the screen or your desk isn’t okay. 

5. Build trust with your voice
Research shows that video conferencing puts a higher cognitive demand on viewers and therefore can be stressful4—especially to those who aren’t practiced in it. Use your voice to put viewers at ease and increase your connection with them. Remember to:

  • Use a friendly, relaxed tone.
  • Express empathy, openness, and warmth. 
  • Speak at a rhythm that holds your viewers’ attention. 

6. Be present
You wouldn’t multitask while having lunch with coworkers or clients if your goal was to create connection and build trust. A video conference is not the time to check your emails or do other work. Even if you aren’t leading the meeting, your professional reputation is at risk if it seems you’re not paying attention. 

To help you stay present to your viewers, put your phone on silent and place it facedown on your desk. Also, close other windows on your computer desktop. Remember, the camera is on, and you are being seen at all times.  

COVID-19 has turned our homes into virtual offices and conference rooms. The more effectively we can communicate verbally and non-verbally on camera, the more we can engender trust in our colleagues and customers. All we need to do is adjust our perspective and behaviors to embrace technology as a powerful environment.

References

  1. Kamouri A, Lister K. Survey reveals 76% of global office workers want to continue working from home post-COVID-19. News release. Global Workplace Analytics. Published May 4, 2020. Accessed May 14, 2020. https://globalworkplaceanalytics.com/brags/news-releases
  2. Goman CK. Your body language on a videoconference. Forbes. May 30, 2014. Accessed May 15, 2020. https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolkinseygoman/2014/05/30/body-language-on-a-videoconference/#4232e6c8505e
  3. Dodds J. Eye contact: a primal force in business. The Startup. November 26, 2019. Accessed July 1, 2020. https://medium.com/swlh/eye-contact-a-primal-force-in-business-d15f4b86449f
  4. Ferran C, Watts S. Videoconferencing in the field: a heuristic processing model. Management Science, Vol. 54, No. 9. Published online September 1, 2008. Accessed July 1, 2020. https://pubsonline.informs.org/doi/abs/10.1287/mnsc.1080.0879

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Hollace S. Masino is an instructional designer with a master’s degree in instructional technology and over 15 years of experience in training, education, and leadership. She has filled a broad range of roles, including facilitator, curriculum designer and developer, and director of training programs. Her areas of interest are motivational design, human performance improvement, and the higher stages of human development. At Encompass, Hollace plays an integral role within the Instructional Design team and has been instrumental in the creation and deployment of a variety of professional development and sales training courses.

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