When you stand on stage and speak to a crowd, the old rules apply: posture, use your hands for emphasis, speak clearly and not too fast.
Guess what, folks? That applies to video meetings as well, where body language makes all the difference between whether your audience pays attention or not.
That could be your boss or co-workers. “Virtual meetings require us to up our game in presentation skills,” says Mimi Bliss, a former local TV reporter who now runs the Nashville, Tennessee-based Mimi Bliss Communications, helping executives with presentation skills. “We need to be more engaging, and more concise, because people are sitting behind computer, where their attention spans are shorter.”
Bliss has five tips for better body language.
Use your hands
Your voice has more energy and your face lights up when you use your hands, she says. When your hands are clutched together and folded, or leaning on the table, it’s reflected in your voice, she adds.
“And elbows off the table. When we put them there, our voice gets into a monotone.” Hands should be resting on the table, but not leaning.
Stand up, if you can
For live presentations, speakers stand because it shows authority. For a video meeting, standing will “help you speak with more confidence,” Bliss says. So how do you do a video meeting behind a webcam on foot? Use a stand-up desk, or put the computer up high and use a stepladder.
Sit up straight
Your mother and teacher told you to do this in class. “Sit up straight, lean in slightly, and leave a little less headroom” in the webcam shot for authority.
Click the slides
If you’re one of those who like to present and show slides, Bliss suggests ditching the age-old practice of advancing the images on the computer by clicking the keyboard. Instead, you should use a remote control clicker. “When you use the enter key, you lean forward. Your body language changes. When I advance with clicker, I retain upper body position.”
Make your gestures low and open
“We don’t want our gestures to cross our face or come above our shoulders. That’s distracting. On a virtual meeting, I encourage people to use gestures that can’t be ‘seen’ on the screen but can be ‘heard’ in their voice because we speak with more energy when we use gestures. Also, gesture for a purpose. A gesture allows us to emphasize important information and even to pause.”
One final tip from Bliss, not related to body language. Try talking a little slower. “People lose attention when others talk too fast,” she says. Practice slower talking by pausing with your hands. “It forces me to have silence.”