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Who’s Zoomin’ Who? Zoom Body Language Hacks

by Howard Fencl, Hennes Communications

The more we get used to Zoom, Webex, Microsoft Teams and other live video teleconferencing platforms, the more danger that we get a little too relaxed. I’ve seen Zoomers drone on and on, delivering their presentations in a disinterested monotone. I’ve seen “listening” participants slouching, checking email and who-knows-what-else on their phones, and bobbing their heads around at the thumbnails of speaking call participants as if it’s the open sequence of the Brady Bunch.

From the moment you enable your camera and mic, you’re on. And so is your reputation. So here are some thoughts to keep your Zoom participation professional and keep your delivery crisp and memorable.

If you’re going to present at a meeting at high noon, and your team starts popping onto Zoom at 11:57, be careful while everyone’s virtually milling around and chatting each other up. Your body language before a presentation can project your attitude toward yourself, your audience or the material.

For example, if your body language sends the message that you are unsure of your material, that you lack self-confidence, or you are apathetic, audiences will turn you off before you even begin presenting. Your body language should support your material and not contradict it (e.g. you’re talking about an exciting new project but yawning and slouching). When what we see contradicts what we hear, we tend to give greater weight to visual clues.

And just because you’re participating in a meeting from your dining room table doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to your gestures and to classic non-verbal cues like posture – good posture always conveys confidence, energy and enthusiasm. An effective gesture always helps express or emphasize an idea you’re presenting, or an emotional component of your material. If a gesture doesn’t help communicate the material, it’s a distraction. No gesture should call attention to itself – never gesture for the sake of it. Gestures need to reinforce the material you’re presenting – from your gut, in other words.

Live video teleconferencing platforms are even less forgiving than a TV interview about limiting your camera shot to a “talking head,” so if gestures are important to you, get them up closer to your face to appear in the video frame. Rehearse your presentation before you log on to Zoom using your laptop or smartphone camera. For some people, it’s helpful to exaggerate gestures when you first start rehearsing so they become part of your “muscle memory,” then tone it down to your comfort level as your preparation progresses.

You might still have butterflies. If you’re prepared, having “butterflies” is a good sign – they come from excitement and can help turn up the energy in your performance. The best way to be relaxed going into a presentation is to repeatedly rehearse the material and your gestures until they become second nature.

Even though it’s Zoom, you must prepare just as you would for a pre-COVID-19-in-the-flesh presentation. And for goodness sakes, if you feel a sneeze coming on, hit “mute”!

(For more video conferencing tips, see my colleague Bruce Hennes’ recent post!)

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