Virtual meetings are so different than in-person meetings, as you cannot read body language or feel the energy of the others in the meeting. Your presence is reduced to a small square on the screen! However, there are several things you can do to elevate your virtual presence:
1. Enlarge your presence by sitting or standing near the camera. When you are sitting far away from the camera, your presence will be even smaller. When you position yourself near the camera, where you are only visible from your upper arms and higher, your voice will be louder and you will be able to be “framed” properly. In this position you are able to make appropriate hand gestures when needed. Keep in mind to not place it so close that only your head is showing.
2. Look like you are happy to be at the meeting. Most people have a habit of joining virtual meetings with blank expressions on their faces. You will stand out by simply having a pleasant expression on your face. You can keep a pleasant expression by simply pressing the corner of your lips outward just a little to form a slight smile, or by parting your lips to show some teeth. These expressions will keep you looking engaged and positive.
3. Speak up early on in the meeting. Log on early to initiate small talk before the meeting. And once the meeting starts, if you have something of value to say, say it early on in the meeting to establish presence. And if you do not, by simply typing “good to see everyone” or a general positive statement in the chat, you are making your presence known in a non-obtrusive way.
4. Look into the camera when speaking. This is counter-intuitive in virtual meetings, as the tendency is to look at the other faces on the screen, however, this causes your eyes to dart around. Remember that your presence is about how you are perceived by others in the meeting. Therefore, when you are speaking, look directly in the camera so that it will appear as if you are looking into each person’s eyes.
5. Never look down: Whether it’s referring to notes or if you are taking notes, looking down for more than a second will have everyone looking at the top of your head. You will appear that you are not engaged in the meeting. If you need to refer to notes, place them at the side of your camera rather than down at your desk.
6. Use the raise hand feature when you want to ask a question or make a point. I formerly dismissed this option as irrelevant, but now see that there are advantages to using it. First, you don’t have to worry about speaking up at the same time someone else does, as you are called on to speak. And second, because you are called on to speak, you are then “given the floor”, meaning that others pay more attention to what you are saying, because you are not merely interjecting.
7. Be brief and to the point. There comes a point where you need to quit talking, and it may be before you realize it. When all of the participants are on mute and you are the one talking, you don’t have the advantage like you do in an in-person meeting where you can sense that someone else wants to interject or even worse, that everyone else has tuned you out because you’re going on too long. This happened to me just recently. I unmuted myself to make a point, and because I am always working to improve my own communication, I watched the recording of the meeting and realized I talked for a solid two minutes when my point could have been made in thirty seconds.
Lastly, it is a given, but worth mentioning because it is so important. If you want to elevate your presence in a meeting, you need to turn on your camera. It is hard to establish presence when people are not able to even see you.
Want to learn how to express good body language for video calls? Check out this video: Good Body Language For Video Calls