With the inundation of video conferences, meetings and even social gatherings, our presence has changed in how we show up and connect with others. At in-person meetings and gatherings we can convey all kinds of non-verbal messages through our movement, our dress, and with our body language from head to toe, but in the virtual environment there are limits to how much we can convey. What this means is that the little that we are able to convey (which is usually from our shoulders or upper torso and higher) on screen has that much more impact on the way that others receive us.
Here are ten ways you can make a positive impression on video calls:
1. Show up! Turn on your camera whenever possible. Those with their cameras off tend to be easily overlooked by others in the meeting. And others may tend to wonder just how engaged you are, as we all know it is so tempting and easy to multi-task when you are not on video. By turning on your camera, you are making a statement that you are fully present and engaged.
2. Keep your camera positioned straight ahead at eye level. If your camera is too low, you are looking down at others—and commonly hunched over, and if it’s positioned too high, it causes you to tilt your neck back, turning up your nose to others. If your camera is on a monitor separate from the monitor you are looking at, the other participants may be staring at the side of your head!
3. If possible, face a window so you have natural light on your face. It’s hard to make a great impression if no one can see you! If having a brightly lit room is not possible, invest in a ring light—there are some tiny portable ones available that clip to your computer monitor.
4. As soon as you appear on video, break into a smile when you see others on your screen. As others join the video call, greet them with a smile or a wave when appropriate. Think of entering a video meeting just like you would an in-person meeting…with a friendly expression.
5. Keep notes at eye-level. It wasn’t until I watched a replay of one of my video conferences and realized that when I was looking down at my notes, all people could see was the top my head. Even when I raised my head, my eyes were cast downward, certainly not engaging with others. When you keep your notes at eye level, you are glancing to the side rather than down.
6. When speaking to a group, look straight at your camera. It is tempting to look at the other faces on your screen, but when you do that, although you think you are maintaining eye contact, the other participants see your eyes darting around. When you look at the camera, each participant will think that you are speaking directly to them, because you are.
7. Maintain a pleasant facial expression. This doesn’t mean you should grin the entire time, but it does mean that you should be hyper aware of how you are coming across. My husband was on a video conference with me a few months ago, and later asked me if I was bored or irritated by the discussion….which came as a total surprise, as I had no idea that my facial expression was conveying negativity. Does your “resting face” convey boredom or negativity? If so, simply parting your lips will create more of a pleasant facial expression.
8. Don’t fiddle. Whether it’s touching your face or neck, stroking your hair, these are “self-soothing” gestures that can subconsciously send signals to others that you are uncomfortable.Keep your hands away from your face, neck and head!
9. Have whatever you need within an arm’s reach. When you turn away from the camera to reach for something you need, you break any connection that you have formed with others.
10. At the end, don’t be hasty to leave the meeting. And when you’re the host, don’t be hasty to press the “end” the meeting” button. Allow a few seconds for a friendly smile, a farewell and a pause before signing off. Think of it like leaving an in-person meeting; allowing enough time to say goodbye before leaving or ending the meeting.
I have had to learn many of these tips first hand—by either watching recordings of myself on video, or hearing critical but constructive feedback from others. And I’m still not perfect….doing these things requires planning and intentionality; however, self-awareness is the first step. I hope these tips will stay top of mind for you as you prepare for your next video call!