Nonverbal communication is “the act of conveying information without the use of words.” It’s safe to say that nonverbal communication accounts for a large amount of our total communication. According to some researchers, the amount of nonverbal communication is four times that of verbal communication, with 80% of what we communicate through using our actions and gestures versus just 20% being conveyed with the use of words. (Source: Verywell Mind). In other words (no pun intended!), we can say a lot without saying anything out loud.
Our body language and other nonverbal clues convey a wealth of information to people in our daily lives. These signals reveal important information about our moods, thoughts, and emotions. And now that many of our professional interactions take place in “virtual” conference rooms, our nonverbal cues frequently speak louder than our words more than ever. You may not have even realized that your messages were largely transmitted through nonverbal clues before most communication migrated online. As video chats become the norm, you must make a concerted effort to consider the message you are delivering with your on-screen body language and presence.
Unfortunately, many people approach their virtual conferences far too informally, behaving in ways they would never do in person. Eating during a virtual call may be perceived as unprofessional and unpleasant, especially if you are not muted. And what are you saying if you keep turning off your camera? It could make people wonder what you’re doing that you suddenly don’t want us to see. Either way, it’s quite distracting! And if you don’t turn the camera on in the first place, it might seem like you just rolled out of bed and look terrible. That seems disrespectful, and we would never get away with being disheveled in a face-to-face meeting.
Here are some ways to help you develop trust and enhance engagement in the digital world.
#1. Maintain steady eye contact.
Align your gaze to the same horizontal level as your camera. If necessary, place a book underneath your laptop. Looking into the camera is the same as making direct eye contact. Since eye motions can be easily noticed, avoid looking down, away, or reading other items on the screen.
#2. Sit back from the camera so that all your gestures are visible.
Few people want to engage with a “talking head.” Check to see if your top torso is in the center and if your hands frequently extend beyond the screen. If they do, move the camera back even more.
#3. Remember to smile and nod when appropriate.
On-screen, it’s much more difficult to convey focused attention, so reinforce a positive presence and that you’re listening by smiling and nodding, just like you would in person.
#4. Sit up straight while leaning your head slightly toward the camera.
Avoid slouching in your chair since it makes you appear lazy or bored. When people meet in person, they may lean in to show interest in the speaker. The position you take at a virtual meeting is an excellent method to demonstrate a similar level of enthusiasm.
#5. Keep your hands away from your face and hair.
It’s downright distracting to watch as someone constantly touches their face or flips their hair, whether in person or a virtual meeting. There is also a widespread belief that people who touch their faces when responding to questions are dishonest. While this may not always be the case, it is better to refrain from playing with your hair or touching your lips or nose while on camera.
#6. Mirror the other speakers’ nonverbal cues.
To connect and comprehend one another, we instinctively use the powerful skill of mirroring. Mirroring the other speaker’s posture, gestures, and even the tone of their voice allows us to connect with them, even on virtual calls.
#7. Keep your background simple and quiet.
A sloppy background can give the impression that you are disorganized or uncaring. Some people use virtual backgrounds, but they can make a meeting feel even more “cyber.” Instead, the on-screen experience will feel more authentic if you participate in a tidy space at home and preferably one that does not display your bed. And finally, choosing a distraction-free space without outside noise, children, or pets will also help make the meeting run more smoothly.
#8. Prepare for potential interruptions.
When you’re working from home, occasional disruptions are inevitable. Other interruptions might include someone knocking, ringing the doorbell, or receiving a phone call. When you’re not speaking, one solution is to put yourself on mute. If an interruption is due to a child or pet, it’s also acceptable to politely excuse yourself when necessary because most people appreciate the needs of young children or pets. Be as professional as possible if you must leave the meeting unexpectedly.
Over to you
Remember that the adage “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it” applies just as much in the digital world as in the real world. Now that you understand you need more than just your words to effectively convey a message, remember these simple ways to improve your nonverbal communication skills and enhance your next virtual meeting.
Written by: Jennifer Hanford, MYOB Blogger