How well do you portray yourself on video during a virtual meeting?
This is NOT about what you look like or whether you have the smartest ideas.
This is about your presence and how you convey being a good listener and an engaged audience member. Also, when you share your ideas, do you find people listen and retain what you say or is there something you do that distracts your audience from listening to you?
A lot of time was spent on this subject when we moved to working from home at the start of the pandemic. But now after three years, our way of working has changed which has also shifted the way we show-up for our colleagues.
For example, I believe there is an increased lack of eye contact during virtual meetings because folks are reviewing agendas and documents on a second (or third) monitor or screen. Also, we have packed more meetings into our days with a virtual context. This leads to even more multi-tasking. (And why wouldn’t you multi-task when you have that fancy extra screen?)
It’s time for a quick refresher so that we can all not just portray ourselves better but also make a bigger impact in our work and with our team. Here are a few tips.
Face your camera
Make eye contact with your audience consistently by facing your camera. When you don’t, you send the message to your audience that what your looking at is potentially more important than them. If this requires resetting your home office, do that.
Your audience feeling like you’re looking them in the eye matters and will help them listen and retain what you say. If you don’t make eye contact, they’re more likely to be distracted thinking “What are they looking at while they’re talking?” or worse, “Can’t they stop looking at email for just a minute to engage in this meeting?”
Face your camera and if your email is up on a second screen, shut it down. It’s too tempting to look at.
Shut off self-view
Fidgeting with your hair, wiping your nose, messing with your glasses, and adjusting your shirt can be distractions to you audience. These behaviors are often the culprit of having your self-view enabled. When we overly focus on ourselves, we begin to adjust more than if we were in a conference room face to face with everyone. Try shutting off your self-view. By not knowing the exact placement of your hair, you won’t focus on it.
There’s an added benefit too, you’ll likely have more energy at the end of the day. One of the most taxing aspects of virtual meetings is seeing our own reflection. It’s a significant contributor to Zoom fatigue because never before have our brains had to process our own reflection while also processing intense eye contact in the form a flat screen with faces staring back at us.
Reduce some of that cognitive load by giving your brain a break from looking at yourself.
Mind your background
It’s surprising to think we still have to say this but pay attention to what is in your background. If there is a messy corner, a disheveled bookcase, or boxes piled up behind you, your audience will spend more time focusing on the clutter than listening to you.
Tidy up for important meetings and for people who you want to see you as put together and organized. You can occasionally let things slide for your closest colleagues but for situations for where you want great discussion and be seen as competent and someone to be trusted, have a well-organized and clean background.
If you must use a virtual background (because your company requires it or your room is a hot mess), be sure you show up properly on camera. Occasionally, due the volume of light behind the speaker as well as the type and quality of the camera, people using virtual backgrounds fade in and out for the audience. Sometimes, they look like they have a floating head or a missing shoulder. It’s another distraction that may cause your audience to listen less. Ask trusted colleagues for feedback on how well you show up with your virtual background.
It’s ok. You can cringe. Listening or seeing a recording of yourself is uncomfortable but it is also the quickest way to see how you portray yourself on camera. Do you have a smile or warm expression on your face while delivering good news? Do you fidget or shift in your chair while you speak? What does your eye contact look like? The recording will provide you with valuable information.
Select a meeting where you can inform colleagues that you’ll be recording the meeting so that you can evaluate your virtual presence. Get agreement before recording, that’s helpful. If that won’t work for your situation, then fake a meeting at home with your partner or roommates and record that. OR, if the thought of watching a recording is too stomach churning, then ask a trusted colleague for friend for feedback.
Having an engaging and effective virtual presence is another, layered-on expectation for us all. It’s easy to forget the best practices and get a little sloppy. Reminders like this helps us all refresh our practices and continue making the impact we want to make.
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Until next time!
Amy Drader is a management consultant and credentialed coach with over 20 years’ experience in HR and operations. She knows first-hand the joys and challenges of leading people and is dedicated to helping managers and teams advance their performance. She is the owner of Growth Partners Consulting, a boutique leadership and team development consulting firm that provides customized training and coaching.
Start advancing your performance today! Check out Productivity Training for Professionals or Leadership Training for Professionals from GPC Academy, the online training service of Growth Partners Consulting.