It’s been a while since I’ve posted on the Leadership Coach. It won’t surprise anyone to know that, as for many others, the business model of my organisation has had to change radically in response to the pandemic. It takes up a lot of time!
I’m not the only one for whom this has been the most challenging period of their career. The myriad obstacles that we’ve had to respond to, many of which have no precedence have made it a sometimes exhausting, sometimes exhilarating experience.
As we now move away from the original crisis response and shape our businesses for the new and evolving normal, it can often seem like we know nothing. No sooner have we overcome one challenge but another rears its head.
Much is Still the Same
And yet…throughout this whole process, some things have remained the same even though we are doing them in very different ways. Most importantly we are still having to communicate. The medium might have changed but effectively showing up in front of stakeholders is as important now as it ever was. In fact, given so many businesses are having to fundamentally change their offer, it’s probably more important.
So what is the same, if the way we communicate with people is so different?
Simply put, it’s the need to influence and persuade. The irony that I’m witnessing is that, despite certain small efforts that we can take to make the experience of meeting us virtually so much more powerful and engaging for stakeholders, many people just don’t do it. The reason for this is that we’ve all been thrust into virtual/digital/remote communications without any real training or awareness of what makes the experience better for people.
I suggest a handful of things below that will immeasurably improve your ability to persuade and influence others, without even thinking about the actual content of your conversation.
This is a simple list of things to do that will make you look more credible when someone looks at you through a screen. It will make you look more credible and more professional. You may know these already but the number of meetings I am having where people are still making really basic mistakes about how show up on a video call really surprises me.
1. Build rapport
Look at the lens and not at the screen when you are talking to someone. We all like to feel like we the focus of someone’s attention and for that to happen, you need to look at the lens. There is a reason news anchors use autocue, it’s so they can look at the lens as they speak. The feeling on the other end is that you are really being looked at and spoken to. This is probably the hardest thing to do on this list and requires practice and discipline. The result, though, is that you do build a connection with your audience. Yes, it’s hard to judge responses but if you can give 90% of your attention to the lens when you are speaking your opposite number(s) will feel it.
2. Frame yourself well
Framing for moving pictures generally splits the frame into three horizontal sections. You want to get your eyes in the top third of the frame without chopping off your head. Start to notice how others do it, what works and what doesn’t, and notice how TV and film shots are framed, particularly the news.
3. Raise the camera
No one wants to look up your nostrils. If you are using a laptop on a desk, there’s a fair chance that’s the view they are going to get. Do yourself and them a favour and get the lens on as close to a horizontal with your eyes as you can.
One of the many exhausting things about being on video calls all day is that, in the absence of many non-verbal cues we pick up in face-to-face communication, we have to pay extra attention to the words people speak. Breathe, pause, pace yourself. This will let others digest your points with more ease.
5. Energise yourself appropriately
If like me, you haven’t yet got round to buying that stand-up desk you know would really benefit your health, then you have to think about how you are using your chair. It’s very ease to let chairs do the job of holding us up but it’s not actually the chair’s responsibility, it’s ours. Make sure you are sitting on your Sitz Bones (yes, you can look it up), that your spine is away from the back of the chair and that you aren’t letting your shoulders drop (commonly know as slouching!).
These tips are not an exhaustive list. They are, however, very easy to get right (and very easy to get wrong). The value to doing them well, though could be the difference between someone’s impression of you as a person of credibility and professionalism, or not.