Even as some offices start opening up again (amazing or dreadful, depending on who you’re talking to), it seems like Zoom meetings—or Google Hangouts, if that’s your vibe—are here to stay. Meaning ensuring your body language is open, professional and sincere—and being able to read someone’s body language—when you’re not in the same physical space continues to be crucial. Think about it: If you’re interviewing for a new job, it’s a lot easier to pick up on subtle visual cues from the interviewer—and adjust your behavior or answers accordingly—if you’re in the same room. Over Zoom, however, there are connectivity issues, kids yelling in the background and a whole host of other things preventing you from connecting on the same level as you would in person. To make the experience a little bit better, here are three tips for improving your Zoom body language, and reading someone’s body language, virtually, according to Andres Lares, Managing Partner at Shapiro Negotiations Institute, a global provider of sales, influence and negotiation training and consulting.
1. Take Note of Their Background
Not only does this tell you about the person you’re meeting with, Lares notes, it also gives you a potential way to build rapport. Do you see that they have a degree from the same college you went to? Is there are beautiful piece of art you can compliment? On your end, choosing the right background for a video call or conference is key. “A clean background is good, but bare walls can be viewed as a negative thing, as it gives the other party nothing to connect with.” Basically, try to strike a balance between empty and cluttered when setting up your own background.
2. Pay Attention to Posture and Facial Expressions
In terms of posture, Lares says, “Open postures are generally perceived as positive (i.e. standing or sitting up straight with your hands at your sides or on the arms of your chair.)” If you’re meeting over a video conferencing platform or FaceTime, when someone faces you while having a conversation, that shows they are interested and engaged.
Where your facial expressions are concerned, try your best to smile. “Smiling shows you enjoy people and are glad to meet them,” Lares reveals. “Research indicates that smiling is a powerful communication tool, especially on virtual calls where you do not have many other tools at your disposal. Do it early and often; it impacts your state of mind and your audience’s because it is contagious.” Just make sure your smile is sincere, lest you look like you’re faking it.
3. Notice Hand Gestures
On this front, Lares points to body language expert Vanessa Van Edwards, who found that the most viewed TED Talks were done by speakers who were more active with hand gestures. “Hand gestures make a message easier to understand and more memorable.” He suggests trying these gestures during your next video call:
- Use your fingers to support a number that you share. For example, if you give three reasons for something, consider using the gesture of three fingers visible to your audience.
- Use two hands to compare. When making a comparison of any kind, use your right and left hands spaced out to provide a visual that supports that concept. Think apples and oranges.
- Show togetherness by putting your hands together. Just as using two hands apart is a great visual for comparison, putting your hands together is a strong visual for providing an additional visual to go along with your message.
- Change your hand positioning when talking about yourself. When telling a story or something personal about yourself, consider bringing your hands in, in front of you with your fingers touching your chest, to accentuate this message.