For the past year and a half, my business has been focusing on teaching presentation delivery skills for virtual meetings. Here are some of the strategies I’ve been sharing with others which may be helpful to you.
The problem with virtual meetings is it’s impossible to have direct eye contact with someone. There is no way you can both be looking at each other simultaneously. But eye contact is just what you need to influence others and establish trust with them. So how do you do that?
You’ve got to develop a love affair with the camera. Just like the anchorman on the evening news, you need to look directly at the little bright light on your device, NOT the little faces along the side of your screen. Yes, you can glance away occasionally to gauge their reactions, but it’s important to snap back quickly to the camera light. I know it feels strange to not look at your audience, but in the virtual world – you ARE!
On the receiving end of your message, participants feel like you’re talking right to them, and your message becomes engaging and impactful for them. If you spend your speaking time looking off to the side, audiences begin to feel disengaged from you and your content, as though they’re observing a meeting you’re conducting with another group.
So plan on looking at the camera 95% of time and 5% looking at people and their body language. I suggest you even look at the camera when someone is talking TO YOU. The only way to display active listening (nodding, smiling, etc.) is to look at the camera while they speak, not at their face.
Though largely unseen, gestures can add vitality and inflection to your delivery. So go ahead and get your hands involved when you speak. If they occasionally appear onscreen, all the better.
Two tips –
1. Use more lateral gestures, not forward and back. Gesture toward the camera and your audience will literally recoil.
2. Try 1-handed gestures instead of two hands. One hand is scaled perfectly for the small screen and will support your message, not overtake it.
Keep in mind there will always be at least one set of eyes looking at you at all times in a virtual meeting, even when you’re not the speaker. People love to scroll through the gallery of faces to see what everyone is up to. Do your best to show you’re actively listening. And if you are the speaker, guard against a monotone face; that’s as dull as a monotone voice.
We all tend to get slouchy in our chairs as a day full of virtual meetings wears on. I fight that by putting a small airplane pillow behind my back. No, I didn’t steal one from my latest flight, you can buy them in stores – really. Tucked in the small of my back, it reminds me to sit up straight. Check your camera positioning, too. Are you filling the screen—1 inch of space above your head at the top, down to mid-chest at the bottom?
Remember you’re always “on” when you’re on-camera. Don’t let your delivery skills derail your message. Try these tips and sell your idea! If you’d like some expert coaching and feedback, contact me at [email protected].