Non-verbal cues have been extensively studied throughout the years. And while the impact of body language on communication will change depending on the study, everyone agrees that at least 70% of what you convey is non-verbal. This means that your tone of voice and body language matter more than your words.
For example, imagine that you’re in a meeting with your boss and they say you’ve met your objectives for the quarter. However, instead of being excited, they’re speaking with a serious tone and frowning. You’ll probably think either two things: you misheard what you’ve been told, or you should have worked even harder.
Mastering your body language is key to improving your personal brand both in your career and personal life. It hugely impacts how others perceive your confidence and commitment, and positive body language suggests that you’re approachable, attentive, and open to new ideas. But how can you communicate non-verbal cues when you work from home, and everyone sees you through a webcam?
Have a Favorable Meeting Setup
There’s always someone in online meetings that seems to be in an underground bunker. Their room is so dark that you almost can’t see them, and their audio is just plain terrible. It’s a no-brainer that it’s impossible to see any non-verbal cues or hear changes in your tone of voice with this kind of setup. So, before working on your body language, make sure you have a high-resolution webcam, a great microphone, a reliable internet connection, and perfect lighting.
Step Away From the Webcam
Most laptops come with a built-in camera. This feature is extremely convenient, as you can join an online meeting with no need for extra accessories. The main problem is that these webcams are usually too close and only show your face. In other words, people will only see your facial expressions and miss out on other body language cues, which isn’t ideal. However, if you use an external camera, you can easily place it further from you to have a wider view. In cases where you don’t need to use the computer, you can even attend online meetings standing up, giving you more room to make gestures and show your confident and at ease posture.
Eyes on the Camera
William Shakespeare said that “the eyes are windows to your soul”, and he’s completely right. When we’re face-to-face, it’s normal to look someone in the eyes to see their reaction. Unfortunately, that’s not possible in a virtual setting. Still, you can give attendees the feeling that you’re looking into their eyes by looking at the camera. This strategy is commonly used by professionals who interact with an online audience because it helps build trust and credibility. We recommend turning off everyone’s camera feeds (including your own) so that you don’t get the urge to look at the computer screen.
Speak With Your Hands
Hand gestures are one of the most important elements of body language. If you spread your arms wide with open hands, people will feel welcomed. On the flip side, if you cross your arms, people will think you’re uncomfortable and defensive. More importantly, studies have shown that people who ‘speak with their hands’ are perceived as more agreeable and energetic.
However, you don’t want to look robotic, as this will work against you. So if you aren’t a natural gesticulator, start by practicing small hand gestures, such as counting with your hands or doing a thumbs up when you agree with something.
Dress for the Part
It’s easy to only wear comfy clothes every day when you work from home. That’s absolutely fine, but when it comes to online meetings, you should dress the same way you would if you were at the office. Besides boosting your confidence, it also gives you what experts call the ‘halo effect’, which is a perception we all have that people who look good also have other positive qualities.
Preparation, Preparation, and Preparation
Even if you are the master of body language, nothing can help you if you don’t remember what you want to say. So, take time to prepare for the meeting. Some people also like to rehearse their presentations in the mirror, but this is up to you as it doesn’t work for everybody. It also helps to share the meeting agenda with all participants in advance – if everyone arrives fully prepared, the session will be more efficient.
Getting skilled in body language for a virtual setting isn’t very different from doing it for an in-person meeting or presentation. However, you do need to think more carefully about the setup, and it’s more challenging to speak to a camera. Even so, with a bit of effort and practice, you’ll become a master yourself in no time.