Back in the 1960’s psychological research showed us that amazingly, only 7% of what we communicate is through what we say (words). The other 93% comes from non-verbal communication – 55% of which is attributed to facial expressions and body language, and 38% from our manner of speaking. Whoa! 93%! Non-Verbal. Unspoken. That’s a lot to say (pun intended) for a world that pretty much thrives on communicating via remote collaboration. Think about it. Much of the workforce in today’s global economy communicates remotely and conducts the majority of its business meetings through conference calls and the occasional web conference. In both circumstances, communicators are communicating behind a virtual wall. All we get from the communication is the 7% of what we say. Ok, and maybe a little of the 38% from the way in which we say things. But what happens to the remaining 55% that never gets transmitted?
How can we communicate facial expressions and body language through a web and/or audio conference to ensure optimal, effective communication if the people we’re communicating to can’t see us?
Just as you would allow other people in a conference room to speak up and make comments or ask questions during a business meeting, you should also do the same on an audio and web conference. Assuming you’re not webcasting a presentation while muting the lines of your participants, consider remaining quiet and truly listening to what participants are saying and asking. Because you may not see who’s talking on a conference call, your silence and occasional ‘mhmm’, ‘ok’, ‘I see’, can be thought of as your ‘eye contact’. Be attentive. When you take the time to listen, you’re saying “I respect you…you matter”.
When you’re presenting to a bunch of people you can’t see, it’s tempting to keep rambling on during your meeting. After all, you can’t see them, they can’t see you and you might as well be talking to yourself. But remember, you’re still communicating non-verbally with your audience during a virtual meeting. One thing you can do is pause every once in a while when you’re speaking. These pauses allow your participants to digest what you’ve just said and feel safe, almost invited to perhaps make a comment or ask a question. It gives them time to think. Pausing every now and then during your presentation says “I’m comfortable with what I’m saying, and I want you to be too”.
Talk ‘with’ your people, not just ‘to’ them. Imagine how boring and disconnected you would feel if you’re in a room with someone who just keeps talking and talking and talking. Take the time to ask questions, address your audience, say something funny, anything to illicit a response and make sure they are fully engaged. When you interact with your participants in an online meeting, even though they can’t see you, you are saying “I care about what you think and how you feel“.
This is almost a no-brainer. When you come prepared to any function, any meeting, any presentation, you are communicating to every person there that:
a) you’re responsible and
b) they are important enough for you to be doing good work.
Be 100% prepared with your slides. Know what you’re going to talk about. Have your key points jotted down. When you’re prepared, you’re saying “I got this! And you will too”.
Stay calm, breathe, and release any tension from your body. Even though your audience may not see you on a phone conference, they will definitely sense any rigidity in your voice and in the delivery of your presentation. If you’re rushed in your words, if you switch slides quickly on your Powerpoint presentation, if you’re panicking because you accidentally shared your desktop, then you’re sending the message that you’re not confident. Do a dress rehearsal of your presentation with a few of your colleagues or even to yourself, stay grounded, believe in yourself and go for it. When you’re relaxed and ready, you’re saying “I’m comfortable. Welcome, come in”.