CHICAGO, IL / ACCESSWIRE / October 22, 2020 / Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, 43% of employed Americans worked remotely with some frequency, according to Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace report. That percentage was on the rise well before the coronavirus transformed work life around the world virtually overnight. Suddenly, meetings, scrums, roundtables, brainstorm sessions, and quarterly recaps are taking place over video conferencing platforms.
Meeting fatigue is nothing new. A study in the Sloan Management Review found that the average executive spends 23 hours a week in meetings. Meetings are getting longer and more frequent, those researchers found–and that was before office workers became remote workers. Today meetings-video meetings-are the lifeblood of the virtual workplace. As a business and executive coach, I help my clients build their boardroom presence with strong communication skills and power poses. But those verbal and nonverbal tactics don’t always translate to the world of webcams and laptop microphones. And video conferencing is just that–a world with its unique mores and protocols. Creating a strong virtual presence, whether on Zoom or Google Hangouts, requires a communication strategy tailored to the medium. To show up as your best self when you’re working remote, try these five tips:
Make Eye Contact–with the Camera
‘Maintain eye contact’ is at the top of nearly every public speaking guide: there’s no better way to emphasize your point and foster an authentic connection with your audience. As frightening as it may sound, thinking of Zoom meetings as public speaking engagements will help you keep your presence crisp and your ideas clear. It starts with eye contact. Train yourself to focus on the camera–not on your colleagues (or their adorable pets). If maintaining a steady gaze at the camera for the entirety of a meeting seems daunting, start small. Try simply looking into the camera while you speak. The more you practice, the less intimidating the lens will be–and the more substantial your virtual presence.
Stay Present and On Task
You wouldn’t get up in the middle of a meeting and start wandering around the conference room. Bring that same decorum to your video calls, even if you are in yoga pants and slippers. (And if yoga pants and slippers make it hard for you to focus, why not suit up?). Staying present onscreen means closing browser tabs-yes, even email. Turn your phone facedown. If your organization uses a messaging platform like Slack, post an away message. And minimize multitasking-drinking coffee isn’t cumbersome, but eating a salad is. Once you’re online, it’s critical to observe social cues. Be mindful of how long you’re speaking. Stay on topic. Come prepared. Even when the spotlight isn’t on you, your level of engagement will be noticed.
Enunciate, Articulate, and Project
A strong voice conveys authority and confidence. A person who speaks with ample volume and articulation exudes credibility in a virtual meeting. Clarity of voice is crucial on virtual conferencing platforms, where sensitive microphones can pick up the slightest feedback.
Be Deliberate in Your Framing
Think of the screen as a canvas, a portrait of you from the shoulders up. Make sure you’re centered, and think about your distance from the screen: Sitting too close will make your facial features appear disproportional. Sitting too far away will make you appear less engaged. Give thought to your background, as well. Find a clear space in your home that isn’t highly trafficked. You want your surroundings to underscore your professionalism.
Utilize the Chat
The chat is a real-time repository of meeting essentials and ephemera. If you’re working with an agenda, share it in the chat. If there are handouts, post them in the chat. If you reference an article or a paper, an author or a podcaster, link that information in the chat. If you appreciate a colleague’s point or presentation, acknowledge that in the chat, too. Not only will you keep your communication clear (it can be hard to catch everything referenced during a virtual meeting), you’ll build organizational culture and camaraderie, too.
While virtual meetings are fast becoming the norm, they require new communication strategies and tactics to ensure you convey a strong virtual presence.
SOURCE: Friedman Business Solutions
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