I used to think of meetings as an 85% waste of time. But now they’re imperative. We can’t just pop into someone’s office to ask a few questions. We aren’t able to bump into a teammate in the hallway and give an impromptu report.
Now virtual meetings are necessary. Let’s make them productive too. Here are some tips to make you a shining star at any virtual meeting.
Get a selfie light or two. Not only does it make you look better, but people can see your face. That’s ultra-important for nuances in communicating.
Get a good external microphone. Being well lit and sounding crystal clear will make you appear more professional. That’s points.
Test your webcam and microphone beforehand. Make sure you’re sitting in the middle of the picture.
Make sure your webcam is at eye level. Not only will you look more attractive, but you’ll be able to communicate better. It’ll be as natural as if you’re sitting across from the person. Put a few books under your laptop to raise it to eye-level.
Where to Look
Position the person’s picture window as close to your camera as possible, so it looks like you’re looking at them. Drag it up as high as you can. If you can’t see them well or only see the top of their head, you need to tell them. If, for some reason, they are unable to get on the camera, visualize them smiling and loving you. Don’t sit there thinking they hate you. That’s undermining.
I see a lot of folks out there advising that you look only at the camera. But people can see when you’re looking at them, and it makes them feel warm and fuzzy. We need more WarmAndFuzzy in virtual meetings. As long as their video window on your screen is close to the camera, it’s OK.
However, there are times when you’ll want to look directly into the camera, like when you’re making a crucial point. And when the meeting is jam-packed. In this case let your eyes go naturally from the camera to faces. When people are nodding their heads, you can do the same.
What Your Viewers Should See
Try to make it so you look like a talking head. Just your head and shoulders are in view. In other words, sit very close to the computer with your webcam. Make sure that the person you’re talking to is on the same screen and you keep their pic close to the top of your screen right under your webcam.
I don’t discriminate against the folks with the unmade bed and the laundry basket in the background, but to appear professional, you’ll want to consider your environment.
You get to be at home or wherever you happen to be at the time of the virtual meeting, so that’s a plus, but make sure the people you’re meeting with don’t see the surroundings if you don’t want them to. Situate yourself with your back to a wall with a picture or a plant. Or use a cool digital background. They are available all over the web. But you’ll need a solid wall behind you for them to work well.
If you’re meeting someone for the first time or your virtual meeting happens to be a job interview, build rapport at the beginning of the meeting. Tell a story that will encourage your interviewer to tell you one in reply.
Lots of research suggests that when someone connects with you, they’re more likely to hire you.
Body language rules IRL still apply for webcam meetings. You can mirror people’s arm or head movements. If they lean to the left, you lean to the right. But you may find that this happens naturally.
Do remember that as in real life, if you need someone to see your point of view, keep your arms open. Even if they can’t see your arms (or they may notice that your shoulders are indicating your arms are open), they will feel the openness coming from you. Open body posture will help them to be more susceptible to your ideas.
Exaggerate Your Pauses
Leave more pauses in your speech. Sometimes the technology makes it so only one mic can work at a time, so leave a break after your communicative partner 🙂 speaks. Regardless of the technology, be sure to leave a second or two before you speak.
I recommend practicing pausing. When someone asks you a question IRL, wait a beat or two before responding. Not only will you formulate a better answer but you’ll come across as a more thoughtful person. We want to hire and work with thoughtful people. You can even make it a game with your spouse for practice. Don’t be afraid of pausing!
Be Prepared with Essential Messages
If doing a remote job interview, be sure to have some essential messages prepared. The awesome part of a webcam interview is that you can leave notes directly on your computer. As in life, make sure that the information that you need your future employer to know about you is well crafted and practiced. Keep a bullet point list on a post-it note or tuck it under your selfie light so you can look at your interviewer and see the note at the same time. The small amount of time it takes to prepare your essential messages or a good story will be paid back to you in spades.
It’s nice to let people know you understand them, and IRL you can say, “uhuh,” and “I see,” etc., but on the webcam only use facial expressions and nodding. Any noise coming from you can be distracting and mess with the audio from the speaker.
I can’t stop waving goodbye to people at the end of the meeting. I’ve heard it criticized a bit, but I keep doing it. In addition to facial expressions I do a thumbs up to convey to the speaker that I agree or am having a positive reaction to their message.
Dress the Part
Wear solid colors, dress professionally from the waist up. Feel free to wear your pajama bottoms. 🙂 Some people say they like to dress as if they’re at work because it makes them feel more professional. I like to wear a necklace or a scarf.
You don’t have to take a shower but it’s nice to brush your hair 🙂
Use Your Mute Button
If there’s noise in the background, don’t be afraid to press mute or turn off your microphone. Whenever you’re not the speaker, you can turn on mute. Just remember to turn it back on again before you speak. Don’t worry, do it enough, and it’ll become a habit.
Check Your Look in The Mirror
Five minutes before the meeting use your camera or laptop video to check for dripping makeup, spinach in your teeth, or coffee stains on your shirt. Or leave a small mirror next to your computer.
Drink loads of water to keep your throat from getting dry, and for heavens’ sake, don’t clear your throat! Do the suck-swallow instead to get rid of any mucous that may be hovering around your vocal cords.
Did you think you were going to get away without me telling you to do your relaxation exercises? No chance! It’s of the utmost importance that you be completely relaxed before and during any communicative situation. Virtual meetings are no exception. Otherwise, you run the risk of being weirdly awkward. That’s not the look you’re going for.
Don’t Sound Like a Robot
It’s a pervasive misconception that to speak better, you must work on your pronunciation. Nyet! Untrue! I can’t tell you how many people, who talk well during comfortable times, start to sound like a robot once they’re on a virtual meeting.
Use more air for speech so your voice will project and make sure the the words in each sentence are glued together, not separated like a robot.
Communicating is Tough During the Simplest of Times
Putting a little time and energy into improving your ability to convey your message persuasively is well-worth it. The return on your investment is hundred-fold. Anyone you know who’s a great communicator on and off the internet has worked on it. Wouldn’t it behoove you to do the same?