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Being invisible during virtual meetings won’t help you build your brand as an employee. But these 9 tips will help you be more visible!
With work from home becoming the new normal, meetings where you can actually be invisible and on mute has become possible too. However, the question is, should you be invisible and on mute during virtual team meetings?
In a physical meeting, you might choose to be quiet but you definitely won’t be invisible. People would still see you – listening and making notes. One of the biggest pitfalls of virtual meetings is that it is easy to be lost.
At the same time, as convenient as being on mute and invisible maybe, it can harm your personal brand quite a lot. Here are some reasons why being visible in virtual meetings is important:
Now you know why you need to be visible during virtual meetings. So, here are some fool-proof ways to make sure you continue to grow at work even while working from home:
How to be more visible during virtual meetings
Ideally, the video must be on at all times so people can you just like they can during physical meetings. I know a lot of times, the bandwidth isn’t good enough. But keeping your video on during meetings to increase your visibility is totally worth it. (Fix your internet connection if need be!)
At least for the critical meetings, (especially if you have meetings all day long, choose the important ones,) consider them as physical ones and be there. With your video on, people can see your presence, watch your reactions and remember you as a visible member in all virtual meetings.
Again, it’ll be hard for people to ignore you once you are back in the office when things get normal.
Research has proven that keeping your video on creates a more real-meeting kind of atmosphere. It also helps people bond together with actual people rather than their photos. There are two things you should keep in mind when you use video on your calls:
One, the light source. The light in the room should preferably be in front of you and not behind. If the light is behind you, it will leave a shadow on your face and darken it.
Two, the camera angle. This may take some adjustment – I also tried different ways to prop my laptop to get the right angle for my sessions.
Your eye shouldn’t be looking down at the camera- which is usually the case when we place the laptop on the table. Prop your laptop on a few books to bring the camera at eye level.
This way you will appear as a clean headshot – well lit and looking at everyone at the right angle.
One of the best ways to be visible in a virtual meeting is to speak up. Take up the role of a moderator or something similar during meetings. This will ensure that you have a speaking presence.
At the same time, make meaningful conversations during virtual calls. Regardless of whether you are a moderator or not, make sure that what you say is meaningful and makes an impact.
You can also use your speaking time to present your point of view on the ongoing discussion. This will be a more meaningful contribution from you.
Rambling in a virtual meeting will only ensure that you lose the attention of your audience. Make sure your voice comes out clearly and loudly, especially when people can’t see you. Be clear and structured.
Here’s how you can do it: Decide what you want to say. State it clearly at the beginning, give reasons for your views and end it – all of it in one go. Since your views are structured and presented clearly, your contribution will be noted by everyone in the meeting.
Speaking up ensures that the virtual meetings don’t diminish your personal brand and your presence is felt loud and clear. That people know you for your contributions when you go back to work will help you be in line for upcoming projects.
This applies to the organisers of meetings. A large group in a virtual meeting is a recipe for a team disaster!
Not everyone will be able to talk and some of them will have to be non-contributing members. A smaller group ensures that everyone gets some speaking time. It also increases the chances of everyone being visible during a virtual meeting. And it gives the meeting a more intimate and physical atmosphere.
We have enough research to prove that people are doing myriad other things during virtual calls.
Even if it isn’t your turn to speak or you don’t want to interrupt someone who is speaking, you can still be active. Use the inbuilt engagement tools on online platforms to show your presence. You can use the ‘raise hand’ or ‘thumbs up’ or the ‘applause’ options to respond at appropriate points.
This is a great and unintrusive way to be present in a meeting. You can also use the chat feature to send across your comments without having to interrupt the speaker.
Complete attention from you with regular responses also sends out the message that you are tech-savvy and fully involved in the meeting.
If you are an organiser, this is a great way to keep the engagement going. At regular intervals, ask them to show you a thumbs up or applaud for contribution. Calling upon them from time to time will reduce the chances of people zoning out or multi-tasking on the side.
If your video is on, eye contact also comes into the picture. Where do you look when you are staring at your laptop screen – when you talk and when you listen?
Most of the times we look at our own image when we talk on screen. This makes our eye contact appear a little off to the people looking at us.
Try this: Start a dummy video call and trace your eyes as you look at different points on the screen. Mainly, notice the difference when you look into the camera lens and when you look at your own image on the screen.
You may have to do this a few times to correctly trace where you are looking and which one looks right.
You will clearly see that looking at the lens is the right eye contact to make with everyone – it seems like you are looking right at people.
But you can’t be staring at the lens the whole time – that’s not what we naturally do in physical meetings, right?
So how do we move our eyes around in a virtual meeting?
Use the Triangle Technique – in physical meetings, the triangle is imaginary going through the eyes and mouth of the person in front of you. Every few seconds, you move your gaze between the eyes and the mouth. This way you are not staring at someone the whole time.
The Triangle Technique helps move your eyes around naturally during a video call
In a virtual meeting, when it is your turn to talk – move your eye contact in a triangle. Only the triangle here is the camera lens of your device, your image on the screen and another participant.
Take turns to move your eyes to each person. This gives the impression of a normal eye movement and it’s like looking at everyone in turns.
Virtual meetings are challenging in more ways than one. One big change is the way we use our body language – or don’t!
Most of us are talking heads on a laptop screen and the only other thing available to us is our hands. The rest of our body is gone along with its language! Using hand gestures effectively can make you a better communicator on your video calls.
Research has shown that right-hand gestures get people to take you more seriously. The most popular TED Talks have almost twice the number of hand gestures than the one less viewed.
So making good use of them in virtual meetings can only enhance your image and what you say. And anchoring is one of the ways to use hand gestures more meaningfully.
So what is anchoring? Anchoring is using different points on your screen to anchor different ideas.
For instance, you might be talking about two projects. So you show your right hand to talk about one project and the left to talk about the other. And you use hand gestures using that particular hand for that project.
This adds additional visual cues to what you say and makes it memorable for the listeners. (Another reason why keeping your video on is a bonus)
I know one of the advantages of work from home is the luxury to lounge in your pyjamas all day. One can make do with being mute and invisible in the long line of meetings happening all day!
But if your personal brand is important to you and want people to take you seriously, this will have to change! Research has conclusively proven that dressing up for the job you want holds true as much for video meetings as for real ones.
And experts agree, at least the top half needs to be dressed up for Zoom meetings! You need to appear authentic and trustworthy in meetings.
The Harvard Business Review conducted a survey on three different backgrounds, colours and kinds of attire on a video call. This was done in order to see which one was the most preferred. And turns out that even on a video call, colours and types of attire matter.
Business casuals are the most popular choice if you are presenting to peers. However, suiting up is a great option if you are addressing senior managers or important clients.
So pay attention to what you casually throw on for virtual meetings and if it will make the impact you desire.
You are sitting at home dressed casually. And you just plonked yourself on a couch for yet another meeting where you are a passive listener.
Suddenly, the discussion takes a turn and you want to say something. How much energy and conviction could you send across on a video call from the comfort of your couch?
At the same time, some people pump in a whole lot of energy on video calls since we know virtual medium needs a little more than physical meetings. So what is the sweet spot to appear energetic and project confidence?
That’s what you need to find for yourself!
I sit up at my work desk – and you should too – to ensure I am alert. Additionally, I use voice modulation to get the emotions across and of course, hand gestures add to the energy and meaning of what I say.
You should sound as close to how you would in a physical meeting. Secondly, you need to be energetic and animated to keep your audience interested.
I hope these tips will help you build a strong presence for yourself even in the work-from-home phase.
Picture credits: Getty Images via Canva Pro
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