Virtual Body Language
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technology has completely changed the way we connect with people to
conduct business. It has opened global markets and fostered the use of
geographically dispersed teams – including multiple site organizations
and remote or home working.
not all technology is created equal. Lean technologies, like texts and
email, offer limited social cues. When you add voice and image you
employ much richer sources of communication. We were born with the
innate capability to communicate through our postures, gestures, facial
expressions, and vocal prosody. In fact, our brains search for and
expect these most primitive and significant channels of information.
According to Dr. Thomas Lewis (an expert on the psychobiology of
emotions and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the
university of California San Francisco), when we are denied these
interpersonal cues, the brain struggles and real communication suffers.
is no doubt that using a visual medium can be a powerful way to connect
with people, but I once watched a Chief Executive Officer give an
entire video presentation bent over notes on a table in front of him
while the audience (his entire organization, since this was an “all
hands” event) viewed the top of his head. Then, because the camera was
much too close to him, when he occasionally glanced up, his eye
movements looked exaggerated (making him seem agitated) and his hands
kept flying in and out of frame as he gestured.
effective use of visual technology comes with practice and experience.
Here are six techniques to keep in mind for your next videoconference:
first thing I tell a client is to understand how the camera's distance
affects the way you look to a viewer. If you position the camera too
close (as the CEO did) every expression and gesture will be
exaggerated. The best results come when the screen-image frame starts a
little above your head and ends around waist level. When not using them
to gesture, place your hands on the table or desk – 8 to 10 inches in
front of your torso so that people can see them. Keep them relaxed and
separated. Don’t hang onto the edge of the table, or you will look
desperate. Don’t play with your pen or shuffle papers. Make sure to
keep a preview window open to check how you look to the remote viewers.
Look at the lens
you are using a system like Cisco's Telepresence (allowing you to
maintain actual eye contact with participants), the camera and display
screen will be separate components, and each time you look at the
screen you shift your eye from the camera. If the camera is above the
screen, you’ll always appear to be looking down. And a lack of eye
contact reduces trust and viewer satisfaction with the interaction. You
might have to raise (if on a laptop where the lens is below your eyes)
or lower your monitor height so that the lens hits you at about eye
glancing down to read from notes is fine, but If are going to refer to
them constantly, try having one set of notes on the table, and then
placing sticky notes with short bullet points right below or next to
the camera lens. That way you won’t be breaking eye contact so often.
It’s also fine to look at the screen when others are speaking. Just
remember to move your eyes back to the camera when you reply.
has discovered that participants in videoconferences tend to be more
influenced by heuristic cues – such as how likeable they perceive the
speaker to be – than they are by the quality of the arguments presented
by the speaker. This is attributed to the higher cognitive demands that
videoconferencing places on viewers.
you are the presenter, you will want to guard against looking stilted
and emotionless or (as I’ve seen too often) “over-acting,” since
distracting mannerisms and facial expressions will all be picked up on
camera. Instead, stay relaxed and mentally picture the viewer. Doing so
will help you naturally express nonverbal signals of empathy,
likeability and warmth – such as leaning forward slightly, smiling, and
showing the palms of your hands when you gesture.
Dress for success
Cameras change the way colors and patterns appear to the viewer. Watch
news reporters on television and you’ll notice that they avoid wearing
white, because it catches too much light, and that they almost never
wear clothing with a pattern, because it has a tendency to “jump” and
“zig-zag.” Their better choices - and yours for video - are solid,
pastel or bright colors. By the way: Don’t let your hair fall in your
face, and don’t wear flashy jewelry.
Watch your posture
affects how people perceive you. Just as someone with good posture
sends nonverbal signals of energy, enthusiasm, and health, a person
with poor body posture appears uninterested, uncertain, or lethargic --
which is not the impression that any of us want to project in a
videoconference. Sit up straight, put both feet on the floor, then take
a deep breath and exhale through your mouth to relax your neck and
throat. The goal is to look comfortable and
Prepare to be seen
all, always remember that you are visible. (Which is not as easy as it
sounds if you are used to teleconferences or online exchanges.) Give
your full attention to those who are speaking, as you would if you were
in the same room. Don’t be seen getting distracted by email or texts.
And no snacking, grooming, or fidgeting. Be aware that your body
language is constantly sending messages. One senior executive was
conducting a video conference when he noticed a participant suddenly
lean forward to hold his head in his hands. The executive said, “I can
see you, you know. If something is bothering you, just tell me.”
About the Author
Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.is an international
Keynote speaker on collaborative leadership and the impact of
language in the workplace.
coach to executives to improve their leadership presence and
Leadership blogger for Forbes and author of "The Silent Language of
Leaders: How Body Language Can Help - or Hurt - How You Lead.”
Carol@CarolKinseyGoman.com Authors Google+
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2014-06-24 10:38:24 in Personal Articles