How to Elevate Your Presence in a Virtual Meeting – Harvard Business Review

Written By Joel Schwartzberg

Even before the COVID-19 crisis started, 5.3% of Americans — more than 8.2 million people — worked from home, according to a 2018 U.S. Census report. And with the outbreak turning more office workers into work-from-home employees, video conferences are becoming more routine for a wide range of business purposes, from staff meetings to brainstorming sessions to major announcements.

But communication tactics that work well among colleagues in a conference room may not translate seamlessly to Brady-Bunch-style quadrants on a computer screen. Organizational behavior professor Andy Molinsky recommends seeing virtual meetings as “an entirely different context, not simply an in-person meeting or a class on a screen.”

Elevating both your point and your presence in a Zoom, Skype, or similar virtual meeting, requires not only engaging in video conference-friendly tactics but also disabusing yourself of potentially detrimental misconceptions about the medium.

To help keep your impact actual when your presence is virtual, consider these six recommendations:

1. Focus on your camera, not your colleagues

Every presentation coach will tell you that direct eye contact is a vital way to reinforce your point. In a video conference, this means looking into the video camera, not at the smiling faces of Marcia, Greg, Cindy, Peter, Jan, and Bobby. Speaking into a cold black circle will not feel natural or comfortable — as humans, we’re trained to look at the people we’re talking to — but know that entertainers and politicians have been doing it for decades.

It’s challenging to focus on your camera for an entire meeting — especially while others are talking — but know that you increase the impact of your points when you look deep into the dot.

Practice looking into your camera during video conferences when you speak, even for brief moments. The more you use it, the more comfortable you’ll become with it.

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